The University of Newcastle, Australia

Karen Dimmock's story

Karen Dimmock has always been at ease with a brush in her hand and paint on her clothes, but building a career in the Arts was something that always seemed out of reach as she raised her family.

Today, the Central Coast grandmother is looking forward to spending the last years of her working life doing 'something that she loves', after undertaking studies at the University of Newcastle Central Coast Campus.

"I didn't get the opportunity to study at university when I was younger; it was much later when an older woman, that I met one day, inspired me and I decided I wanted to study at university."

Following on from that meeting, Karen learned of the University of Newcastle's enabling program, Open Foundation that helps to prepare mature age students for university study.

After completing Open Foundation, Karen enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts program at the University's Central Coast Campus at Ourimbah, and is now undertaking an honours degree in Creative Arts, with plans to pursue a career in curation.

"To return to studies as an older woman and to have successfully completed my Bachelor of Arts degree is a huge achievement for me," Karen said.

"I have taught many people to paint over the last 20 years, and enjoy the great sense of achievement that others gain when they are able to produce something they didn't think they were capable of," Karen said.

"But if you had told me ten years ago that this is what I would be doing now, I would not have believed it.

"The course that I studied on the Central Coast Campus has informed me a great deal within the Arts, as well as improving my skills in the Arts, and in writing. But most importantly, my University studies have given me a great deal more confidence and an increased ability to step outside my 'comfort zone'."

Karen commenced her degree with plans to study history and visual arts, but was lured towards the creative arts after participating in drama courses as part of her program.

"I had no intentions to work on the stage, but I have become fascinated by the creative processes, and I now aim to spend the last five to ten years of my working life in a position that I enjoy - working in the Arts in some capacity," Karen said.

"In the final year of my degree I had the opportunity to be part of a directed studies course, where I was able to use my knowledge first-hand, to curate an exhibition as a part of the Grotto Project, which is held annually on the Ourimbah campus.

"It was a very exciting and satisfying project, though at times it was a little overwhelming as I had to decide the theme for the exhibition, as well as curating the exhibition, inviting artists to participate, as well as marketing and promoting the event."

Karen's successful curation of The Grotto saw her nominated for a UON Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Award, which is given annually by the University to high-achieving students who have completed a practical element in their degree program.

"My proudest achievement while studying was when I received the WIL Student of the Year Award for the Faculty of Education and Arts," Karen said.

Karen is keen to encourage other 'older' Central Coast residents to consider what new doors could be opened for them with a University education.

"Several doors have been opened for me; doors that I was unaware of before I commenced my studies," she said.

"But, the most valuable thing that I have learned from studying at University is to believe in myself and to know that I can do anything if I put my mind to it, which is such an important lesson for anyone, no matter what their age."