CSU Theology graduate takes distance education to the extreme

1 JANUARY 2003

Practising Greek verb endings by torchlight in a tent in Western Australia's Kimberley region might not be on the usual list of study tips, but that didn't stop zoologist Dr Jackie Courtenay earning her Bachelor of Theology with CSU.

Practising Greek verb endings by torchlight in a tent in Western Australia's Kimberley region might not be on the usual list of study tips, but that didn't stop zoologist Dr Jackie Courtenay earning her Bachelor of Theology with Charles Sturt University (CSU).
 
Dr Courtenay, who was recognised with the Laurence Murchison prize for academic excellence by lecturers at the University's St Mark's National Theological Centre, was in the Kimberley volunteering on a biodiversity study while completing her degree.
 
“My husband was working on a biodiversity project studying the impact of cane toads in the region so I went along to do some volunteer work,” she said.
 
“It meant I often found myself writing assignments in a four-wheel drive between campsites, or learning Greek and Hebrew in a tent by torchlight.”
 
Dr Courtenay completed her PhD in zoology in 1993 but said she had always been interested in the spiritual aspects of life and wanted to undertake formal study in the area.
 
“A lot of my working life has revolved around environmental conservation and the conservation of threatened species,” she said.
 
“I think conservation is as much a spiritual endeavour as a scientific endeavour, and the approaches people take to issues of conservation are very strongly related to their spiritual beliefs.
 
“People's attitutes toward environmental conservation and climate change are based on the way in which they interpret their own relationship to the environment, and the relationship of humans more generally to the environment, rather than being based on science.”
 
Dr Courtenay said although she was often studying in very remote locations and sometimes couldn't submit assignments or contact lecturers, she received strong support from CSU staff.
 
“The Charles Sturt University lecturers and support staff were fantastic,” she said.
 
“They were so understanding when I was ringing them up to say I was flooded in or I would be out of internet range for the next week.
 
“Trying to master Greek verbs in a tent, translating Hebrew while stranded by floods in the Bungle Bungle National Park and writing essays on a laptop in a moving vehicle are some of the more memorably challenging experiences I have had over the past few years.
 
“But I can't think of one staff member who was not committed, supportive and passionate about their subject, and very tolerant of the many unexpected complications that my unconventional lifestyle created.”

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