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Celebration time at Coffs Harbour campus


Brigid Veale
4 June 2010
Christine Farrell will have more reason than most to celebrate when she graduates at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus tomorrow (Saturday, June 5).

Christine, who says the occasion will be ‘pretty special’, has completed her degree despite being a quadriplegic – the result of a car accident in 1991 when she was in Year 11 at Toormina High School.

Christine, one of 260 students who will receive awards in two graduation ceremonies, is now enrolled in a Graduate Diploma of Psychology and is aiming to do a PhD.

“I was always interested in helping people. Initially I thought I’d like to go into counselling, but now I’ve decided to keep studying and hope to do my PhD in psychology,” Christine said.

“I want to find out the science side of helping people.”

Christine, who has no movement in her arms or legs, uses speech recognition software to write her assignments and has the assistance of a note taker for lectures.

Her advice to anyone considering studying, regardless of what obstacle they may face, is simple.

“If you are interested in bettering yourself, you should just do it. You will get help along the way – you won’t be alone,” she said.

The graduation ceremonies, which will be attended by around 1000 people, are being held for the first time in the new Sport Centre at the Coffs Harbour campus.

Southern Cross University Chancellor, The Hon John Dowd AO QC, will present the awards. A total of seven University medals, recognising outstanding academic achievement, will also be awarded. Five are being awarded in the first ceremony for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, starting at 10am, and two will be presented in the second ceremony for the School of Education and the Faculty of Business and Law, starting at 2pm

Louise De Masi, who will receive her Bachelor of Education with First Class Honours, is one of the seven University medal recipients.

She will be joined by her family, including her daughter who has just started the Bachelor of Education degree.

“I moved to Coffs Harbour in 2000 and I started my course in 2006. I was 38-years-old when I started but ever since I was a little girl I had always wanted to be a school teacher,” Ms De Masi said.

“Life just got in the way and when I left school I wanted to go out and earn some money and then I started a family. When the course was offered here in Coffs Harbour I took the opportunity.

“I absolutely love teaching. It’s a really exciting time to be a teacher with the introduction of digital technology.”

The occasional addresses will be given by the Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee and the chair of the Coffs Harbour Education Campus Board of Governors Catherine McKimm. Two graduate addresses will be given by Megan Atkins and Belinda Smith.

Megan, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Hotel and Resort Management, moved to Coffs Harbour from the town of Wolumla, on the South Coast of New South Wales to undertake her degree.

“It was the course that attracted me to Southern Cross University and Coffs Harbour was the perfect next step from my home town,” said Megan, who is now working as the marketing assistant at Park Beach Plaza.

“It was still on the coast and close to the mountains, but there is a lot more industry and more resources here. The course was great and the small class sizes were a definite bonus.”