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Gold Coast graduates represent more than 1100 stories of triumph and achievement

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Content and media
29 January 2024

More than 1100 graduates will cross the stage at the Gold Coast Convention Centre this week in the first Southern Cross University ceremonies of the year.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Tyrone Carlin said the ceremonies – four of which will be held over Thursday and Friday – were a special day for graduates and their loved ones, along with the whole university community.

“Our staff cherish graduation days,” he said. “Where the achievements of our students – and the positive impact of higher education for them – is on full display.

“After they cross the stage they are taking their first steps as proud members of our alumni family, which is now 80,000 strong and stretches across the globe.”

“Every single one of our graduates has an inspiring story. Our graduations are a celebration of them individually and collectively.”

Among those graduating this week are Bachelor of Nursing students Naomi Watson and John Palencia. In addition to their extensive student representative work, John and Naomi co-founded a nursing podcast in 2023 called Vital Signs.

Two students holding framed certificates
Naomi Watson and John Palencia were honoured at the 2023 Student Excellence Awards

Naomi said that leading the Nursing Student Representative Team, the founders of the Vital Signs podcast, was a highlight of her degree.

“[On the podcast] I had the privilege of interviewing nurses from across Australia who thoughtfully shared advice to nursing students and new graduate nurses which was a phenomenal experience.

“Graduating feels a bit surreal. I am so fortunate to be standing alongside some of my closest friends to celebrate this huge milestone together, going from students to registered nurses.”

Naomi plans to pursue surgical nursing in Melbourne as a graduate nurse.

Podcast co-founder John Palencia, who also served on the 2023 Regional Youth Taskforce, advising government on youth issues, said he felt a sense of immense gratitude on the eve of graduation.

“The highlights of my degree have been the friendships I've made within the Southern Cross community and the support and guidance I've received from the teaching staff,” he said.

Occupational Therapy student Candice Richards is also graduating on Friday.

She’s a familiar face to many at the University, both as a student ambassador and a regular contributor to the University social media channels where she has shared her study and placement experiences over the years.

Candice said the University had provided her many opportunities to network with students, professionals and industry leaders, Australia-wide. “These connections not only developed my personal and professional skills, but equipped me with the skills to apply for, and be accepted into, my dream career.

“I am now working full time as a Mental Health Occupational Therapist within Queensland Health, hoping to make some people’s world a better place,” she said.

Dean of Health Professor Julie Jomeen will give the occasional address at the afternoon ceremonies on Friday while Professor Amy-Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles will address the Thursday ceremony. Occasional speaker at the Friday morning ceremony will be youth advocate and 2017 Alumnus of the Year, Jules Allen.

“The University provided so many opportunities to network with students, professionals and industry leaders, Australia-wide.”

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