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Shaun tops off new career with University Medal


Brigid Veale
30 March 2012
Shaun Hardy hasn’t looked back since he gave up a high-paying position in telecommunications in Sydney to pursue a career in high school teaching.

And the decision has well and truly paid off, with Shaun one of seven students who will receive a University Medal for outstanding academic achievement at Saturday’s Southern Cross University Coffs Harbour graduation ceremonies.

Shaun, who completed a Bachelor of Technology Education at the Coffs Harbour campus last year, gained a full-time permanent position with Coffs Harbour High School before he had even finished his degree. His wife is now completing a degree in primary education.

“I was in a reasonably senior management position in telecommunications in Sydney, but I wasn’t really doing anything to make a difference. I had always wanted to go to university, but had never pursued that.

“We may have been rich, but only in money. I can’t believe now I was so entrenched, but it was golden handcuffs.”

With his wife, and a three-year-old and one-year-old, the family decided to make the move out of Sydney.

“My boss didn’t believe me when I said we were leaving.

“We decided to go to every town on the east coast that had a university, and then decide where to stay. We stayed at Darlington Park near Coffs Harbour and just loved it, and from there everywhere we went we just kept thinking of Coffs Harbour. We got up to Bundaberg and then turned around and came back.”

Shaun, who left school at 16, is an electrician by trade and the only one in his family to have been to university. Before starting his degree he completed the Southern Cross University Preparing for Success program.

“I needed to learn how to write an essay. That was just brilliant because it taught me referencing and other academic skills. It was worth its weight in gold. Because SCU is smaller there’s not a huge cast of lecturers and you can really get to know them. Being older I was a bit unsure but it was brilliant.”

Shaun said he chose to specialise in food and textiles to help address the gender balance in teaching.

“I discovered there were really no male teachers in food and textiles and I thought that inequity in gender needed to be addressed.”

Attending Saturday’s graduation will be Shaun’s family and his mother, who is coming from New Zealand to see her son receive the University Medal.

“For my family it’s a big deal. I come from a pretty working class background and university just was never an option.”

The other University Medallists are: Matthew Neal, Anja Draper, Jeffrey Hodgins, Jennifer Brown and Lisa Skinner.

Around 200 graduands will be attending the Coffs Harbour graduation ceremonies tomorrow (March 31).

The first ceremony for the School of Health and Human Sciences and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management will be held at 11am. The second ceremony, at 2.30pm, will be for Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, School of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Education, School of Environmental Science and Management, School of Law and Justice and the Southern Cross Business School.

The occasional speakers for the two ceremonies are:
11am: Professor Patrick McGorry AO, MBBS(Syd), PhD(Monash), MD(Melb), Hon LLD (Monash), Executive Director, Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, Head, Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne and Australian of the Year 2010.

2pm: Emeritus Professor Richard Smith, BEd, BA(Hons) PhD(Qld), TPTC(NSW), MAICD, part time Professor, Southern Cross University, Chair of the Board of Directors, Australian Institute of Music, Sydney.

Photo: Shaun Hardy has not looked back since studying at University to become a high school teacher.