Inaugural employability excellence achievers unveiled

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The students, staff, businesses and community partners who inspire the University of Newcastle’s reputation for producing work-ready graduates have been recognised in the institution’s inaugural Employability Excellence Awards.

Employability Excellence Awards

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Mark Hoffman said the Employability Excellence Awards provided an opportunity for the University community to highlight the amazing things students and staff were doing outside the traditional classroom to complement their studies and enhance their employability.

“Congratulations to each of our nominated students, staff members and industry partners who have achieved great things together this year - through extra-curricular activities, paid internships, entrepreneurial activities, and Work Integrated Learning. Their stories are inspiring.”

Professor Hoffman said the University was committed to building the employability skills of its students through experiences such as world-class Work Integrated Learning and by providing access to top quality extra-curricular activities.

“The Awards also recognise University staff who play a vital role in providing valuable opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills and develop professional networks as part of their university experience,” he said.

“We know these experiences give our students a special edge for life once they leave university.”

“The awards also honour our valuable community and industry partners who collaborate with our University, guiding our students and giving them opportunities to apply their learning in real life workplace settings,” Professor Hoffman said.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky, said the University’s Looking Ahead Strategic Plan, placed Work Integrated Learning, employability development and community engagement as a centrepiece to the successful preparation of students to become life-ready graduates.

“At the University of Newcastle, we prepare our graduates to meet the challenges and opportunities of their future,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“We want our graduates to be career-ready, professionally engaged, and excited about their future beyond university.

“But this can only happen through powerful partnerships with industry, business and our community. Thank you to our partners for contributing to the professional preparation of our graduates; and to growing and strengthening our regions,” he said.

Visit the 2020 Employability Excellence Awards virtual exhibition site.


The inaugural Employability Excellence Awards achievers are:

Work Integrated Learning students of the year

Wednesday Sutherland, Bachelor of Creative Industries: Wednesday curated, marketed and coordinated The Lock-Up’s annual fundraising exhibition COLLECT 2020. Photo available.

Ryan Kooyman, B Teaching (Technology) (Hons): Ryan has shown resilience throughout his program to complete his final teaching internship in Semester 2 2020 under extremely challenging circumstances.  He has done this professionally and is a role model to others.

Bryce Lynch, Bachelor of Computer Science (majoring in Software Development): Bryce is a key member of the incubatorTANK team. He has been invaluable in working on cutting-edge development solutions for current projects in a high-pressure time-sensitive environment. Notably, Bryce has been the lead developer on iSCOPE Gozi, which is currently in BETA testing and soon to be available to the public -

Sophie Montgomery, Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management: Sophie has an outstanding record volunteering during her undergraduate degree to gain experience in her area of interest (ecology, management and conservation of native Australian fauna).  She has volunteered into projects with NPWS (Barrington surveys), and with PhD field studies for the University of Newcastle and other universities with a diversity of species (gliders, Tasmanian devils, threatened frogs).

Courtney Parnell, Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Diploma of Legal Practice: Courtney secured a clerkship at Allens, the top law firm in Australia, where she conducted a 10-week placement in their intellectual property and environment and planning teams. She recently received a graduate offer to continue working at Allens as a lawyer beginning in 2021.

Student Employability Achievement Award

Dr Helena Qian MAICD, Bachelor of Medicine/Diploma in Languages: Dr Qian is a Ma and Morley Scholar who graduated from a Bachelor of Medicine in July 2020 and will complete her concurrent Diploma in Languages this year. A motivated individual who excels beyond expectations, she’s the elected student representative on University Council, University of Newcastle Students’ Association (UNSA) Executive and Australian Ambassador for Youth Opportunities. Her volunteering and leadership highlights include spearheading initiatives for the Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) as AMSA Global Health Chair and representing Australia at numerous international meetings. She’s organised numerous successful initiatives locally and internationally and commences internship January 2021.

Student Entrepreneur of the Year

David Sivyer, Masters of Practice: David is the founder of Feedback Organic, which has converted 750,000 litres of food waste and grown 25+ tonnes of food with 800 volunteers on an urban farm of 70mx70m. He was one of ten founders into I2N’s Validator program in 2020. He received EPA grant through Mosman City Council to process food waste in an urban context in 2019 and was a presenter at Vivid Tech X in 2018.

Student Intern/Cadet of the Year

Emily Spurway, Construction Management: Emily completed a 12-week industry scholarship in February 2017 with North Construction & Building and has since worked as a building cadet in a range of site and office-based roles across multiple projects including Newcastle Light Rail & Stops, SPCC Salamander Bay, Civic Station Redevelopment. She is currently working in a site engineer role on a $31m education project at Medowie. Emily has concurrently been studying a Bachelor of Construction Management (Honours) full time through the University of Newcastle and is in her final year.

Work Integrated Learning Hall of Fame Awards

Large employer (more than 200 employees) co-inductees:

Varley Group - Varley has been actively involved in providing WIL for engineering students for more than 20 years. Since WIL has been extended to include the School of Business, Varley has been on the front foot taking up students from the commencement of the formal program. Over the years student internship placements have been involved in HR, marketing, accounts, continuous improvement, IT, law/commerce, international trade, project management, business systems, work health and safety.

Department of Communities and Justice - Since the commencement of the Master of Professional Psychology Program in 2019, the local Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ, formerly FACS/DOCS) service under the leadership of Jane Davenport, has been its strongest supporter. The DCJ has offered external supervised placements for the University’s provisionally registered psychologists and in 2019 almost half of the cohort was placed at DCJ.

Small-medium employer (less than 200 employees) co-inductees:

  • Proactive Physiotherapy and Sports workshop
  • IncubatorTANK
  • North Construction & Building Pty Ltd
  • Ramsland Laidler Solicitors
  • PerformHR
  • Take 3 For the Sea

New Partner and Employability Award

BMG Australia and New Zealand. The University of Newcastle’s partnership with BMG Australia and New Zealand has created:

  • WIL opportunities for current students
  • Employment opportunities for current and past students
  • Real-world, industry connections and mentoring opportunities
  • Philanthropic support for Indigenous Student Scholarships ($23,000 p.a.)
  • Participation in School of Creative Industries (SOCI) events and industry support for University-led activities and events

Work Integrated Learning Staff Members of the Year

Dr Kylie Wales, placement coordinator, School of Health Sciences: Dr Wales’ commitment to the occupational therapy students is commendable. She ensures a positive student experience and works well to promote the University of Newcastle brand across the sector.

Dr Narelle Eather, Deputy Head of School (Teaching and Learning): Dr Eather led the redesign of eight physical education (PE) courses in the Bachelor of Education (secondary, primary and early childhood) programs to ensure University of Newcastle students are provided with PE courses that include multiple and varied work integrated learning (WIL) opportunities in school-and community settings. She also led two research studies (published 2017, 2019) investigating the feasibility and impact of integrating peer-dialogue assessment within WIL opportunities in PE courses. The success of these studies and excellent course evaluations has led to the permanent inclusion of PDA in four PE courses at the University.

Dr Alex Mendes, lecturer, School of Engineering: Dr Mendes has taken an elective course in Work Integrated Learning for one program with around 20 students, and converted it to a core course across multiple programs in computing and IT with more than 100 students per year. This revision involved completely redeveloping the course in accordance with Australian Computer Society requirements for professional skills. It also engages deeply with multiple industry partners to produce work ready graduates. Despite the challenges of the large diverse cohort, recent student experience surveys show very strong support for the major revisions made.

Dr Xanne Janse de Jonge, Senior Lecturer in Exercise and Sport Science: Xanne is our practicum coordinator and is responsible for student placements in the gyms, sport clubs and physio practice. Due to COVID-19, Xanne came up with creative solutions for UG to meet their degree requirements in light of the pandemic. She quickly introduced online consultancy services (telehealth) using University staff as clients to offer students meaningful and relevant Work Integrated Learning activities. Xanne created a telehealth practicum manuals, materials and supervision structure that met accreditation requirements of the professional body while addressing the needs of the WIL for students and offering health services for staff.

Daniel Matas, Solicitor and Clinical lecturer: As a supervisor of students on legal placement at the University of Newcastle Legal Centre, Daniel has gone far beyond what his job requires. He has initiated programs in conjunction with the local court and local practitioners to allow students to be involved in criminal law matters including engaging with clients, judicial officers, local solicitors and barristers. Requiring significant personal commitment, Daniel maintains a legal caseload that allows students to assist with matters from the first client interview right through to the hearing where Daniel represents the client before the court.

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