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Faculty of Regional Professional Studies - Graduate Speaker

Saturday, 25 February 2012 at 6.00pm

Ms Thea McDonald-Lee


Chancellor (Hendy Cowan), Vice-Chancellor (Kerry Cox), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, fellow graduands and guests.

Life is all about changes. Some changes are big and take many months to work through. Others changes happen in an instant. Moving from Scotland to Bunbury to study at Edith Cowan University was a change of both types for me.

My mother actually happened upon the Surf Science program at ECU South West while scouring the internet, searching for a possible tertiary education course for me. I’d been travelling and working in various countries since high school and mum was eager for me to enroll at university. When I read about “Surf Science”, my choice was instant. However, packing up my life into a 20 kilogram bundle and moving all the way to Western Australia took a little bit more time.

I couldn’t believe it when I turned up in Bunbury. It seemed we shared our beautiful leafy campus with kangaroos and magpies and there wasn’t a bar in sight! Yet immediately I felt an intimacy and rapport with the campus community when I was greeted by Cheryl from Student Central with a big, “G’day Thea, we thought you might turn up today! Welcome to ECU South West”

During my three years in Bunbury I have undergone many personal changes. Changes in the way I think about things and changes in who I would like to be. I attribute a large part of this metamorphosis to the exceptional lecturers I have encountered. Amongst the slides and assignments these dedicated people have related their life stories and passed on their valuable insight.

I am convinced that university has taught us all that the experience is not just about distinctions and exams. Learning is founded upon communication, innovation and inquiry. At Edith Cowan University I always felt encouraged by the staff to realise my potential. I have been given many wonderful opportunities to integrate creativity into my studies. Through the Surf Science program, we’ve been privileged to experience a myriad of these opportunities.

In 2009 we organised and delivered our annual surfing competition, the ECU Surf Challenge. In the event management process, we liaised with a wide variety of people - from the local council, to sponsors, to the media and to high profile surfing competitors. In 2010 we surveyed the Pocillopora coral reefs at Rottnest Island and investigated the significance of these unique marine ecosystems. We’ve been coached in the surfing field by one of Australia’s most esteemed surfers Mike McAuliffe. We engaged with renowned surf industry representatives - Creatures of Leisure, Rusty and West. I even had my tee shirt signed by dual world champion Mick Fanning at the Margaret River Pro. Last year, our environmental fieldwork incorporated an extensive water monitoring program of the Gynudup brook with the Department of Water. Our results added knowledge to a legitimate community research project. In between these classes we’ve studied business, leadership, marketing, and professional communications. As a result of such experiences, many of our graduates have taken up work in their favoured professional fields.

The academic and creative partnership I’ve been encouraged to pursue at ECU South West means I have much more than a Bachelor of Science qualification. I’ve learnt to integrate different ideas from different disciplines. I believe all my learning is connected to making me ready for my next step in life.

But the most important thing I will take away from this experience is my commitment towards life-long learning. I want to persist in challenging myself, and keeping my mind open to changing the way that I think.

Congratulations to every single student in this room. And a massive thank you to every parent, partner, friend or family member who has helped each one of us along our academic journey. We certainly couldn’t have managed it without your support. Thank you to our lecturers and to all the staff in at ECU South West who have taken the time to converse with us, answer our questions, and share their opinions and wisdom.

Today, we should all be proud of our tertiary achievement. The decision to commit to university and to see it through with dedication and persistence is an awesome accomplishment. We are ready to go out into the community, wherever that may be, and to make our mark on the world. Congratulations to the graduates of 2011/2012. May your next life-chapter be as successful and exciting as your university experience.

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