She said yes! James and Cassie on holiday.
Before graduating with their PhDs, he popped the question.
12 December 2013

It’s clearly a special day when a boyfriend and girlfriend graduate together with PhDs.

But it’s doubly special when marriage is proposed — and accepted — the evening before.

University of Queensland students James Kirby and Cassandra Tellegen graduated today with PhDs in clinical psychology after Dr Kirby provided “a little extra sparkle” last night for Dr Tellegen’s graduation outfit.

“We met at UQ; we were both working on PhDs in the School of Psychology,” Dr Kirby said. “We shared an office and sat right next to each other.”

Dr Kirby worked hard to keep his proposal plan under wraps while the couple worked side by side each day to complete their respective PhD projects.

“We have been dating for four years and this is probably the only secret I have had from Cassandra,” he said.

Dr Kirby popped the question yesterday afternoon on the beach at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast. His request received an emphatic: “Yes!”

“I wanted to keep a connection to UQ, as this is where we met, studied together and graduated together with PhDs, so proposing the day before our graduation just seemed right,” Dr Kirby said.

Dr Kirby’s PhD study focused on designing, developing and evaluating a program called Grandparent Triple P.

Grandparents are the largest group of childcare providers in Australia, and the situation is similar around the world,” he said.

The program helps grandparents increase their confidence in their child-caring roles, and reduces children’s problem behaviours. It significantly reduces stress, depression, and anxiety.

Triple P is a UQ-developed, international award-winning system of easy-to-implement, proven parenting techniques that help solve and prevent parenting problems.

The program is available in 18 languages and 24 countries, and has benefited six million families worldwide. Numerous trials continue to enrich the research on which it is based.

Dr Tellegen’s PhD work focused on evaluating a version of Triple P for parents with children with autism.

The modified version was found to be effective at reducing behavioural problems of children who have autism, increasing parenting confidence, and reducing dysfunctional parenting practices.

With the couple both having PhDs focused on parenting techniques, it would seem they are better prepared than most for the challenges of parenthood.

“Yes, it will be great if we can benefit directly from our expertise one day,” Dr Kirby said. “We do hope to become parents.”

UQ Graduations

More than 7000 students will graduate from UQ between December 6 and 17.

This year marks 100 years of graduates at UQ, since the first degrees were awarded in 1913.

Queensland’s largest university has graduated more than 205,000 students, and has a proud cohort of alumni who have gone on to make their mark in more than 150 countries.

Contact: Dr James Kirby +61 7 3365 7290, +61 (0)427 856 566,

Ms Kristen Bastian, Faculty Communications, +61 7 3346 9279,