UNE celebrates a living-and-learning community

Published 10 October 2008

tanyahanstock.jpgProfessor Peter Flood, giving the Occasional Address at a University of New England graduation ceremony today, captured the spirit of the occasion when he said: “Universities are a people business.”

From the opening remarks of the Deputy Chancellor, Scott Williams, who paid tribute to “the many staff members and students who have made this university what it is today”, to the vote of thanks to current staff members by Honours graduate Rebecca Payne, the occasion celebrated UNE as a living-and-learning community.

Ms Payne, who graduated today as a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours, said UNE offered its students “a unique opportunity to be personally acquainted with their lecturers”. “The academic staff are willing to go the extra mile for their students,” she added.

She also highlighted the “rich social culture” centred on the University’s residential colleges – a culture she had experienced as a resident of Earle  Page College – and the opportunities for leadership roles that college life offers.

Professor Flood, UNE’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), spoke about the quality of “social intelligence”, which, he said, was an essential attribute of a good leader. “Social intelligence” – involving the ability to empathise with others – was more important in a leader than “expertise”, he said.

“Leaders are not born,” Professor Flood explained. “They develop the skills of social intelligence that inspire people to follow them.”

“May you continue to develop and make a positive contribution to society throughout your lives,” he urged the graduands.

Dr Tanya Hanstock, who was presented with a Young Distinguished Alumni Award during today’s ceremony, has already made an outstanding contribution to society in the five years since she graduated from UNE as a Doctor of Psychology. Dr Hanstock has devoted her early career to helping children with mental illness. She was one of the foundation psychologists at The Nexus Unit, a child and adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit established in 2003 at the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle. In 2005 she established the first Juvenile Bipolar Disorder clinic in Australia – called The Bipolar Program – within the Hunter New England Area Health Service.

“I really love my work,” she said today, adding that her seven years of study at UNE – as a BA, Honours, and PhD student – had made it possible. “”I was fortunate to have great lecturers and supervisors,” she said.

Dr Hanstock, who combines her professional role of youth mental health worker with a wide range of related community-involvement and academic activities, told the graduands they could look forward to “a fulfilling and diverse career”. “I hope you enjoy your career as much as I enjoy mine,” she concluded.

All the speakers at today’s ceremony emphasised that gaining a degree was just the beginning of a process of life-long learning. A vital example of life-long learning is one of today’s graduates – 70-year-old Jennifer Swain, who graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy after completing a study titled “Comparing Aboriginal and El Salvadoran Refugee Experiences of Place and Belonging in Coffs Harbour”.

“I decided to do something for myself before I got too old,” Dr Swain said. She began as an undergraduate at UNE in 1993 – studying archaeology, a lifelong passion. “I loved it,” she said. “The whole thing was exciting and invigorating.”

Today’s ceremony was for people graduating from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The ceremony tomorrow (Saturday 11 October) will be for those graduating from the Faculty of The Professions.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Dr Tanya Hanstock displayed here expands to show the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, presenting her with her Young Distinguished Alumni Award.