Graduands urged to follow professional ‘passion’

Published 13 October 2008

nicciburraston.jpg The University of New England recognised the outstanding achievements of one of its recent teaching graduates by presenting her with a Young Distinguished Alumni Award at the second of the University’s two Spring Graduation ceremonies.

In 2006 Nicci Burraston (pictured here) graduated as Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Teaching and began teaching science at Cowra High School. Since then she has transformed attitudes to science not only within the school, but also in the wider local community.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Alan Pettigrew, presented Ms Burraston with the award at the ceremony on Saturday 11 October for people graduating in UNE’s Faculty of The Professions. “Through her efforts, the profile of science in the school has been raised and student participation in science activities and courses has increased significantly,” Professor Pettigrew said.

Ms Burraston explained how – through science camps and competitions, and activities such as the building of crayfish and turtle tanks – she had changed the perception of science throughout the school. And she has ensured that – through the local newspaper – students get public recognition for their achievements in science-related activities. “One student came up to me,” she recalled, “and said: ‘Cowra High is now a science school.’ That made me really happy.”

She has already begun to extend the school’s new-found enthusiasm for science into the general community, and would like to see this as an ever-expanding movement.

Her work was recognised as “the best national achievement by a beginning teacher” in the Australian Government Quality Schooling Awards, and she won the Minister for Education’s Medal of Distinction for 2008.

Reflecting on her own achievements, her advice to the graduands was: “Go out and find an area of need, and set about addressing that need – with passion.”

Professor Paul Clark, Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University, in delivering the Occasional Address at Saturday’s ceremony, recalled his own school-days experience of a teacher who, he said, “fired in me an interest in mathematics”. That interest uncovered a dormant talent for the subject that set him on the path to becoming a physicist.

“It happened because one teacher one day said one thing that worked,” Professor Clark said. “Teachers make a great difference – often in ways they don’t know.”

He, too, urged the graduands to approach employment with passion and commitment – by finding work that they enjoy, making “adventurous choices”, and being constantly aware that what they do “is not a trial run”.

taytiwat.jpgDr Prawit Taytiwat, the Dean of the Faculty of Public Health at Naresuan University in Thailand, who graduated on Saturday with a Doctor of Health Services Management degree, brought the focus on teaching back to UNE itself when he delivered the Vote of Thanks that concluded the ceremony. Speaking on behalf of all the new graduates, he said UNE’s academic staff had worked “tirelessly” in a way that “sustained us, gave us confidence, and, at times, restored our momentum to succeed.”

Dr Taytiwat (pictured here with his wife Ms Waraphorn Suphamum) is the first international graduate of UNE’s Doctor of Health Services Management Program to have studied full-time on the UNE campus.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Nicci Burraston displayed at the top of the page expands to include the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew (left) and the Deputy Chancellor, Scott Williams.