Graduates ready to change the world

Monday, 13 December 2021

Students from across the University of Newcastle will mark the culmination of their studies at the institution’s Callaghan graduation ceremonies this week.

Three graduates in robes standing outside the Great Hall on graduation day PhD graduates from the College of Human and Social Futures attend the December graduation

More than 3000 graduates will be celebrated for their significant academic achievement at nine graduation ceremonies that will award undergraduate, postgraduate, and higher degree by research degrees to a cross-college mix of students.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said that graduation was a momentous occasion and key opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the University’s graduating students.

“Graduation is a wonderful time for celebration, and a time for students and their loved ones to reflect on their years of dedication and hard work,” Professor Zelinsky said.

Professor Zelinsky said he was extremely proud of this year’s cohort of graduating students who have not only completed their studies, an enormous feat on its own, but had done so in an exceptionally challenging year with significant disruption to their learning.

“The skills our students have developed in their particular fields, as well as the broader resilience and adaptability that has come from studying during a pandemic, will serve our students well as they move into a rapidly changing workforce.

“I wish all of our graduates every success for their future and look forward to hearing their stories of success as they take on the world and progress in their careers,” Professor Zelinsky said.

The first of nine graduation ceremonies will commence on Monday 13 December at the Great Hall on Callaghan campus.  The final ceremony will conclude on Thursday 16 December.

Graduate highlight

Bliss Cavanagh

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health Science

Diagnosed at age nine with Tourette syndrome, Bliss Cavanagh spent her formative years trying to hide her condition from the unkind judgement of others.

It was a life-changing experiment during her fine art honours degree that enabled Bliss to see her Tourette’s as her most valued asset.

Now, Bliss is graduating with the first ever trans-disciplinary PhD that combines both art and health and is the Founder of Creative Sensory Spaces, a business that combines art and health science to create powerful immersive therapeutic environments.

Photo of Bliss Cavanagh in one of her colourful sensory spacesBliss Cavanagh in one of her colourful sensory spaces 

Compelled to understand if what she had discovered could benefit others, Bliss embarked on her PhD – the world’s first to examine the benefits of sensory rooms for the general population.

“There’s a growing evidence base on the benefits of sensory spaces for people managing conditions like mental illness, autism and dementia to name a few. Now, we’ve got an evidence base to show that these spaces also greatly benefit the general population by providing a deeply restorative environment.”

It’s no surprise that interest in Bliss’s signature sensory spaces is rapidly growing among the business and corporate sectors, particularly as organisations seek to support workforces overburdened by the impacts of the global pandemic. There’s also interest for spaces in community settings such as airports, shopping centres and libraries.

“It’s essentially an intervention space, an opportunity for people to take time out and then re-enter the world at optimal capacity.”

“The senses are universal; we’ve all got them. They’re what shape our experience of life, so really they’re the most inclusive and accessible way to connect to each and every one of us.”

For Bliss, completing her PhD has been extremely rewarding and with the support of the Female Founders Program, she has developed the business knowledge to rapidly grow her team to help her undertake more projects in Australia and eventually, offshore.

“It is powerful and inspiring to be able to see something that came out of my own personal experience transform into a real-world application that has the potential to create national change.”


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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.