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Celebrating outstanding achievement at Student Excellence Awards

Olivia Noffke with brain models in health lab


1 December 2023

From youth work to supporting refugees and volunteering as a surf life saver, Southern Cross University celebrated the achievements of its extraordinary students at the Student Excellence Awards, held at the Northern Rivers campus on Thursday 30 November 2023.

The Awards recognise outstanding students who have distinguished themselves in the areas of leadership, volunteering, community engagement and sport.

In recognition of her community engagement as a youth worker and her academic excellence, Bachelor of Psychological Science student Olivia Noffke was named the 2023 Student of the Year.

“My degree has been really valuable in helping me in my youth work. All of the things I have learnt have really equipped me when I’m working with a child that is escalating. I have the ability to sit with them through that, explain what’s going on and make them feel heard. It’s just the best feeling in the world when that happens,” Ms Noffke said.

Vice President (Students) and Registrar Brendon Nelson said the awards acknowledge the significant contributions students make to the University community and the communities we serve.

“At the heart of the Student Excellence Awards is our desire to celebrate and live our institutional values of care, boldness and striving for excellence, with so many wonderful examples provided in the nominations,” Mr Nelson said.

“I congratulate all of the finalists on their outstanding achievements.”

 My name's Olivia and I just completed a Bachelor of Psychological Science. I've been in many different parts of the uni, like being an ambassador, I was a student representative on the Southern Cross Council, and I've worked in lots of teams and done lab teching as well. So my degree's been really valuable in helping me in my youth work job, um, understanding like how underlying traumas and childhood development can lead to how kids are acting now, and helping understand how they can move forward.

I think the key to success to being a good student is really getting involved in the university, getting to know your teachers, getting a part of the community as much as you can. That's really how you can get the most out of your uni experience for yourself, but also to give back to the uni.

Student of the Year 2023

Olivia standing in science lab

Olivia Noffke

Olivia has demonstrated academic excellence and an outstanding care for her community. She is the recipient of a National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine Research Futures Scholarship, works as a research assistant and is involved in University Governance as a Student Council Member. She has shown dedication to helping others through various roles in community organisations, including as a Residential Youth Worker for Aspire Hub, a Youth Worker for Life Without Barriers and as a private support worker.

Student Excellence Award winners 2023

Oriana Watts standing in front of yellow health building

Oriana Watts

Oriana showed a strong dedication to helping others during her social work placement with North Coast Settlement Services in Coffs Harbour. She went above and beyond to support recently settled refugee community members, developing innovative programs and demonstrating her advocacy both within and outside of her placement hours, overcoming language barriers and complex issues.

Johnny standing on beach with gloves and bag

Binqiang Zhang

Binqiang (Johnny) is an active member of the University community and is involved in various committees. He fosters a sense of community and inclusivity, both on and off-campus, through his volunteer work including beach clean-ups, support for LGBTQ+ causes, and his commitment to social justice, diversity and community engagement.

John Palencia in nursing lab with sim patient

John Palencia

John is a leader in the student nursing community. He spearheads an online platform for Southern Cross nursing students. His passion for health extends beyond university, volunteering for St John Ambulance and working as an Assistant Nurse in an acute mental health setting. As a 2023 Regional Youth Taskforce member, he influences policy-makers and advocated for the expansion of the Coffs Harbour Health Precinct.

Student in surf lifesaving uniform at beach in front of red and yellow flag

Chloe Dunemann

With over 375 hours of volunteering and eight years of service under her belt, Chloe has shown active community involvement as a member of Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club. Chloe is Head Coach of Nippers and has received numerous accolades. She also works as a Youth Development Officer and coordinates events such as the Gold Coast Youth Development Camp. Chloe was named Young Person of the Year for Coolangatta at the State Member for Parliament’s Community Champion Awards.

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