High school drop-out earns top scholarly honour

14 DECEMBER 2020

High school drop-out earns top scholarly honour

A Charles Sturt University social science undergraduate who lives in Byron Bay in northern NSW will begin her career on a high after being awarded a University Medal for her scholarship.

  • A Charles Sturt University Medal is awarded to a graduate passionate about social equity and achieving structural changes in social service delivery systems
  • Her social science degree reinforced a connection with her ethics and values as she seeks a career in her local community
  • She encourages fellow students to enjoy the academic journey as much as possible, saying “It is such a privilege to learn, to read and research, and expand our minds”

Ms Miranda Burne (pictured) grew up in Byron Bay, dropped out of high school, and after travelling and living in some of the world’s big cities, resettled in Byron with her family. She recently completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Social Welfare) (now called a Bachelor of Human Services) in the Charles Sturt School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“I handed in my last assessment a few weeks ago, and for those who are in the middle of their studies, I can tell you, there is a great moment at the end and an amazing sense of accomplishment,” Ms Burne said.

“It has taken me three years to complete my degree on a part-time basis, as I have been chipping away at it while my young son has worked his way through day care, preschool and kindergarten.

Ms Burne explained that the Bachelor of Social Sciences qualifies graduates to work with families in child protection, work with people experiencing homelessness, or work in the disability or aged care sectors, and many more areas.

“This degree was great at reinforcing a connection with my ethics and values, and encouraging me to think about how I might maintain these in the challenging realities of the workplace,” Ms Burne said.

“I chose Charles Sturt University because I approved of the way this university, in particular, honoured the previous education I received at TAFE NSW in Lismore.

“The University offered generous credits for the TAFE NSW Diploma that I had completed, and while that was clearly convenient for me personally, I also think that the education I received at TAFE NSW was of a high standard and deserved to be recognised.”

Asked what winning the University Medal means to her, Ms Burne said, “It is not often that an email arrives in your inbox saying you have won the University Medal, and I have to say, it was quite a thrill.

“However, receiving the Medal also means a lot to me on a deeper level. In year one at primary school, I got shamed for failing a spelling test because I could not spell the word ‘do’.

“Ever since then, I wrote-off the entire notion of school and ended up dropping out when I was 17 years old, and I never thought anything academic was for me.

“So, completing a degree and then having the honour of receiving the University Medal is really proof that the stories we tell ourselves about our inabilities are often false, and we should try not to let our early experiences limit our potential.”

Ms Burne offered advice to future students undertaking their degree.

“Not everyone is aiming for the University Medal, some students are trying to get their degree completed while juggling work, parenting commitments, and other life challenges,” she said.

“So my advice would be to try and enjoy the journey as much as possible, since it is such a privilege to learn, to read and research, and expand our minds. Therefore, I really recommend trying to slow things down  ̶  go part-time at work, drop a unit to make your load more manageable, and give yourself space to relish your university study experience.”

As for her future career, Ms Burne is presently seeking employment in the welfare sector, as she really wants to work face-to-face with people in her local community, “ … in a COVID-safe manner, of course … ”, but later on she can see herself in a policy development role.

“I am really passionate about working towards structural changes in systems of social service delivery, with a hope to make them more equitable,” she said.

“I am also really interested in being involved in research and the possibility of further academic projects or advanced study.”

Ms Burne emphasised that she could not have achieved her graduation and the University Medal without the love and support of her amazing family. 

“I want to thank to my husband for his spot-on critiques of my work, and his brilliant co-parenting,” she said.

“Thanks also to my mother for discussing and debating ideas with me, so I could get them out of my head while engaging in the solitary act of online learning.

“And thanks to my six-year-old son for inspiring me with his creativity and his lateral thinking.”

Given that formal Charles Sturt graduation ceremonies have been postponed this year, Ms Burne said she is not planning to do anything special to celebrate her graduation.

“I don’t feel like organising something for myself, but I am hoping that graduation ceremonies might run next year and I could attend then,” she said.

Charles Sturt remains committed to rescheduling its 2020 graduation ceremonies in 2021, with dates to be announced when COVID-19-related restrictions allow.

Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Ms Miranda Burne contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

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