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UON Sydney Academics

Since opening its doors in 2009, UON Sydney has encouraged a community of academics to thrive in their respective fields. With world-class, purpose-built facilities, which encourage a next generation learning experience for our students, UON Sydney is booming.

Hear what some of our academics and alumni have to say about UON Sydney as we move into an exciting time within our new premises in the heart of Sydney CBD.

Dr David Cunneen

David Cunneen

Lecturer in Business

David Cunneen believes the world-class facilities and staff on offer at UON Sydney provide the ideal career path for both international and domestic students.

With an extensive career behind him before joining the University of Newcastle (UON), business lecturer Dr David Cunneen is embracing the world-class teaching facilities at UON Sydney. Before joining UON's academic staff, Dr Cunneen spent 14 years with CSR Limited and worked in the Australian IT industry, helping to launch several successful businesses. It was this success in business and passion for knowledge that led Dr Cunneen to academia.

"Knowledge is always bounded by the environment in which you're operating whether it's the country, region or industry. That environment is changing faster than ever and I often tell my students that we live in an era described by management guru Charles Handy of rapid, volatile, discontinuous change and the rate of change is escalating. The term 'life-long learning' is very real."

Dr Cunneen describes strategic management as one of his main areas of interest and enjoys working with students to help them access the world's leading theories, principles and models.

"The models we use are also changing. New theories are emerging all the time so we help students to understand these concepts so they can become the CEOs and leaders of tomorrow."

The location of the Newcastle Business School at UON Sydney, in the heart of the Central Business District (CBD) is something Dr Cunneen feels will offer significant benefits to students.

"We're right in the heart of this most beautiful city. UON has a strong international reputation overseas and students coming here will benefit from different cultural experiences. I also consider our staff to be world-class and I think together that's a compelling combination."

With world-class educators, collaborative learning spaces, and state-of-the-art facilities, UON Sydney is set to become one of Australia's most innovative learning environments.

Nidthida Lin

Nidthida Lin

Lecturer in International Business and Management 

After initially being attracted to UON Sydney by the quality of teaching, Nidthida Lin was eager to create an inclusive, supportive space for her students.

Before joining the University of Newcastle Sydney (UON Sydney) in 2014, Dr Nidthida Lin conducted post-doctoral research at Fuqua School of Business, Duke University in the USA and lectured at the University of Western Sydney.

"My background is in computer engineering. I completed my master's in computer science at Cornell University in the US before consulting at Accenture Thailand for a few years before starting my PhD."

Dr Lin completed her PhD at the Australian Graduate School of Management, University of New South Wales in Sydney. After completing her PhD, Dr Lin became passionate about teaching and quality learning experiences.

"As I increasingly worked with academics and spent more time in the classroom, I realised just how important it was that students have good teachers and that teaching is an enjoyable process. I was drawn to UON by the people who teach and research here. My research area is complementary and enables professional collaboration."

The state-of-the-art facilities and collaborative learning spaces at UON Sydney provides students with opportunities to network and share experiences.

"We have a large and diverse population of international students at UON Sydney. Some of the students are locals who are working in industry but we also have students from China and many other countries. This gives students a great deal of access to people's different knowledge areas and levels of tertiary education."

Dr Lin's own experience of education in different countries gives her an interesting perspective on the needs of her students.

"I think this helps me to understand and help students regardless of their background. I always encourage international students to join in, to feel less anxious, and to feel happier to participate. This is important and is conducive to helping the students feeling that their lecturers are also facilitators - that we really are here to help them."

Dr Lin enjoys the observations of her students and points out that, due to the very nature of business studies, the range of age and experience of students at UON Sydney is also often considerable.

"We have students who are very fresh graduates, but we also have students who have already been working within industry for 10, 20 years or more. They all have things to learn from each other."

Katerina Simonides 

Katerina Simonides

Learning Advisor – Centre for Teaching and Learning

Supporting a diverse range of students - particularly those with English language concerns - has long been a passion for Katerina Simonides.

As a Learning Advisor, Katerina Simonides spent many years at the University of Newcastle (UON) supporting students initially at the main Callaghan campus before joining UON Sydney from its commencement in 2009.

"UON Sydney offers a very different experience to Callaghan and different opportunities. It has fantastic new student spaces but has a lot to offer particularly to business students and the focus has shifted. Learning happens all around us now, not just in a classroom or lecture theatre."

Katerina's role is to support students, particularly international students.

"If they have any academic or English language concerns then they can come to me. I started as a high school teacher, followed that with some primary teaching, but then I went overseas and was teaching English to second-language learners. When I came back to Australia I was teaching English to students at Griffith University. This was aimed at students going into master's programs and it gave me a lot of insight in to what I do now."

Throughout her career as an educator and support person, Katerina has come to understand the many challenges students experience, especially students coming from overseas with different perceptions of learning.

"International students are often comfortable with the methods of teaching and learning from their own country but find that in Australia, at this level, they need to be actively engaged with their studies and that can be very difficult for some of them but we work through it together."

Katerina enjoys the challenge of Sydney with its huge diversity of students.

"Our students come from very different backgrounds and have very different needs. We all get to know each other well in the closer environment.  It's lovely when someone can drop in to see you, engage and share their stories."

With networking opportunities, regular guest speakers, and state-of-the-art-facilities, UON Sydney offers students a creative learning environment where they can reach their potential.

Ralf Wilden Profile

Ralf Wilden


Ralf Wilden has spent time working with giants such as BMW and O2 after studying in Europe and Australia, and sees the diversity at UON Sydney as a source of strength in such a collaborative learning environment.

Dr Ralf Wilden joined University of Newcastle (UON) after gaining his degrees in Germany and Australia and brings a wealth of experience having worked with multinational organisations such as BMW and O2.

"I gained a lot of industry experience in dealing with long term market issues with customers and technology. I worked in the telecommunications industry with O2 and also with BMW, both major international brands, so my early research focused on employer branding and creating long term visions and brands for organisations – not just for consumers, but how do these organisations find and nurture the right staff?"

Dr Wilden gained his PhD in Australia and is passionate about ensuring that students benefit from his ongoing research.

"Resource management is really interesting so I've gradually moved toward research and teaching in organisational strategy and change, which was also the focus of my PhD. I'm also investigating ways of bridging marketing strategy and practice with business management. "I think it's important as an academic to not only conduct research, but to apply the research with industry projects and then communicate the research."

Based at UON Sydney, Dr Wilden feels the location in the heart of Central Business District (CBD) will give students a boost as they can see the connection between their learning and their future careers.

"UON Sydney is ideally situated to be very close to our industry - we can network easily and it makes it much easier to invite significant guest lecturers."

The world-class education and programs provided at UON Sydney are flexible, which enables students to specialise in different areas.

"We have a great international cohort from China, Indonesia, South America. Through this we learn about different experiences and it means the discussions around strategy and implementation of management theories are always interesting."

The purpose-built facilities at UON Sydney offer state-of-the-art facilities and collaborative learning spaces."The environment allows students to engage with each other more, use shared screens and spaces. The classrooms are much more interactive and there's constant action. I think this new location gives UON the potential to become even more connected with the international business community."

Jackie Yong

Jackie Yong

Lecturer in Accounting and Finance

With great experience in the finance industry behind her, Jackie Yong finds continuous inspiration in the opportunity to pass on this knowledge to a new generation.

Jackie Yong is an experienced accountant who still works professionally within the finance industry while studying and lecturing at the University of Newcastle Sydney (UON Sydney).

"My specialty has been working with high net-worth individuals and within investment banking, but my finance background led me to working in investor relations. I worked in an organisation with six publicly listed companies. It was an interesting time when I started the investor relations department and then build it up to the corporate communications division.My focus then was on social responsibility."

Jackie has existing links to Australia and moved here with her family after working with a Swiss investment bank.

"We came here after having children and I was asked if I'd be interested in wealth management. It's a global profession so accounting and compliance issues and so on are similar around the world. I enjoy the opportunities to teach."

The diversity and significance of Jackie's professional experience and networks are of benefit to her students. She always strives to ensure that her students are well-equipped when they graduate.

"I love teaching. I'm currently doing my PhD after a long professional career in the industry but I love hearing from my students as they head into new careers. We see our students being asked to interviews before they sit their final exams. That's incredibly satisfying and the students obviously value the experience of their lecturers."

Jackie Yong's international experience as a professional within accounting and finance means she is well placed to offer pathway guidance to students.

"Our students are offered advice and guidance, not just lectures. Learning how to learn is really important and sometimes the challenge for a student can seem very complicated to them. My ability to teach the students and in turn make them learn to synthesise the theories and apply them onto real industry situations becomes another part of their learning experience. I find this the most gratifying part of being an academic."

"I've been teaching for a decade now and both domestic and international students are becoming increasingly demanding of themselves. They want to learn, they want to ask questions, and this is great as it means that we get to push ourselves as academics and examine our own level of critical thinking and problem solving."

The state-of-the-art facilities and collaborative learning spaces at UON Sydney provide students with a world-class learning experience.

Dr Judith Zhu

Judith Zhu

Lecturer in International Business

Judith Zhu believes the CBD location of UON Sydney helps to give students awareness of the standards for those who are successful in business.

Dr Judith Zhu Joined the University of Newcastle (UON) in 2011 having completed her PhD at Monash University. She describes her own teacher training experience as "quite different" and attributes her strong foundations in teaching as a natural pathway to academia.

"I started my teacher training at an early age. After my graduation I taught at a middle school and then studied English (for educators) at Shanghai International Studies University. I completed my master's degree and then worked in vocational training and accreditation sector and international collaboration department of Chinese government."

Located in the heart of the Central Business District (CBD), UON Sydney is a space for collaboration. Dr Zhu describes the learning environment as being quite unique.

"It has been built to enable a lot of interaction and informal learning, so this will give students wonderful opportunities to meet with other students and discuss and share ideas. We have a lot of brilliant new technology installed and the informal learning spaces are also conducive to discussion."

Dr Zhu points out that the combination of formal and informal learning spaces also fosters a culture of quality teaching.

"I enjoy teaching. I get very excited by being in class, talking with students and sharing my own experiences with them. I'm passionate about wanting to help my students to learn and the new Sydney facilities enable this."

With UON increasingly being recognised for quality education and world-class research, many students from different parts of the world are choosing to come to Australia to study at UON and enjoy all that Sydney has to offer.

"We offer quality teaching at UON Sydney. Students are increasingly discerning about where they invest in their education and our team is a good one. I actually think that for students to work and study within the heart of the business district gives them opportunities to develop their awareness of standards for successful professionals through observation."