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Graduation celebrations at Coffs Harbour campus


Brigid Veale
22 March 2013
It’s been a long journey from the London fashion industry to completing a Doctor of Philosophy at Southern Cross University in Coffs Harbour, but one definitely worth the effort according to Angela Turner.

Dr Turner, a lecturer in Southern Cross University’s School of Education, will be among 235 graduands who will receive their awards from the Chancellor The
Hon John Dowd AO QC at two graduation ceremonies tomorrow (March 23).

After many years in the fashion industry in London, Dr Turner returned to Australia and settled in the small coastal town of Scotts Head, about an hour south of Coffs Harbour.

“I started a family and was running my own business but teaching was something I really wanted to do when I left school. I really had this burning desire,” she said.

Dr Turner enrolled in the Bachelor of Technology Education, combining study with full-time work and raising her family.

“It really changed my whole view of technology and the process of product design. I loved the research component.”

After a stint teaching, she returned to complete a PhD.

“I have a real compassion for my students. I can really relate to how hard it can be, but if you have passion and determination, you can get through it all.
You have to make a lot of sacrifices but it’s absolutely worth it,” she said.

Another graduand who will celebrate her success on Saturday is Alexia Naef, who will be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma of Psychology. She will also receive the 2012 Australian Psychological Society (APS) Psychologists for Peace Award for her research thesis entitled Visual Markers and Social Perceptions of Religious Groups.

Now based in Sydney, Alexia moved to Coffs Harbour to complete postgraduate studies after doing her undergraduate degree in Melbourne.

“I would really advocate for people to go away to regional hubs. There is so much more opportunity and support. The staff really invest in you and you gain so much more,” Alexia said.

“I was in this big turmoil for the first three weeks, I felt I didn’t have what it takes and I was going to pull out.”

After speaking with staff and her supervisor Dr Gail Moloney, Alexia decided to stay and from there ‘gave 110 per cent’.

Her Honours thesis, which looked at how people view the visual elements of religion and how that influences perceptions of social groups, received the Peace Award against stiff national competition.

“It is amazing to win the award. It acknowledges that it is important to understand processes of social perception because it is integral to understanding how peace and harmony between, and within cultures, could be achieved,” Alexia said.

Also being presented on Saturday will be a University Medal to Marguerite Rowe; the Royal College of Nursing, Australia High Achiever Award to Susie Derwent; and The Harry Shand Memorial Prize to Bernard Friel.

Two ceremonies will be held at 11am and 2.30pm. The occasional speaker for the 11am ceremony will be Mrs Kim Taylor, School Education Director. The speaker at the 2.30pm ceremony will be Dr Lesley Forster, Associate Dean (Rural Health) and Head of School - Rural Clinical School, The University of New South Wales.

Photo: Angela Turner will be awarded a Doctor of Philosophy at the Coffs Harbour graduation ceremony.