Sunday, 13 September
Good evening Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Distinguished Guests, Ladies, Gentlemen and Fellow Graduates. I'd like to start by saying congratulations to the graduating class of 2015, we did it!
Like many of my peers here today my journey to university was not the traditional path taken from high school. In 2008 I graduated year 12 and had always intended to take a six month gap semester before starting my degree. This gap year turned into a four year adventure of travelling and working however by my 21st birthday I realised that now was my time and my opportunity to make a difference. My gap years took me up to Exmouth where I was working on the Ningaloo reef it was here my passion for marine conservation was sparked. After originally enrolling in a bachelor of marine and fresh water biology I became aware of the Conservation biology degree and with ECU's course flexibility I was able to pair my love for the ocean and my passion for conservation through completion of a Bachelor of Science.
Throughout my degree I was given the opportunity to participate in practical field work through various day trips, camps and the highlight of my university experience, a study tour to America. Along with 9 other students we participated in a field techniques course run through the through the Smithsonian Institute. For a science nerd being able to work alongside leading researchers and educators was a dream come true. During our time in Virginia I participated in vegetation surveys analysing the grazing efforts of deer, while completing these surveys we were lucky enough to see a black bear foraging for berries only meters away. I was able to overcame my fear of birds through bird banding exercises and experienced a rush like no other when being able to place radio collars on wild deer. These are experience that I hold close to my heart and will never forget.
Along with the field component of the study tour we also visited Washington DC and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, here we had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and experience the zoo in a completing different light witnessing the amazing conservation efforts undergone by the Smithsonian. The Zoo was the highlight of the tour for myself as I was able to talk with leading conservation educators who shared a similar view to me. I left this study tour inspired to come back and ace the final year of my degree knowing that a role in community education was what I wanted to do.
In addition to the experience and knowledge gained through university I sought additional volunteer work throughout my degree these theoretical and practical skills helped me land my dream position at Perth Zoo in July this year. I now get to educate students and the public about the plight of endangered species and their environments.
With all these fantastic memories it is easy to romanticise the university journey, my journey, like some of yours today, wasn't without a few bumps along with way. There was what I like to now refer to as my quarter life crisis were I found myself sitting in Kristina Lemsons office in tears, prepared to drop out of uni completely due to struggling with a unit, however with the support from a fantastic undergraduate coordinator, my family and friends I was given the encouragement required to continue. I’m sure that I was not alone in that overwhelmed feeling. We have all had that moment when we thought it was all too hard and were ready to throw in the towel, from the long days and nights in the elab to the stress of completing countless assessment and multiple exams each semester sometimes it all felt like too much, but here we are we did! We are graduating.
From this point we all head out into the world. For some of us that means post graduate studies for others this means starting your career and for some this is your time to go out and explore the world.
On behalf of the graduating class I’d like to thank everyone who is here today and those who could not make it for your support throughout the years. A thank you to anyone who ever had to proof read an assignment or listen to an oral presentation and a huge thank you to lecturers and ECU support staff without your knowledge and expertise we would not have been here today.
This evening I'll leave my fellow graduates with the words of Dr Suess
You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!
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