11 December 2009

Going back to study as a mature-age student can be difficult for most people, but try doing it with a broken back.

For 27 year-old Hamilton UQ student Jade Hamwood, overcoming such adversity has given her new strength and a new outlook on life.

Jade broke her back in three places while rollerblading on Australia Day this year, and despite being told she would be in a body cast for 19 weeks, she was determined to finish her last year of study.

“I have always been an active and sporty type of person, so nearly losing function of my legs has really made me grateful for life,” she said.

“I was determined to walk as quickly as possible and within a week I took my first steps again.

“I was also determined to get out of the body cast as quickly as possible and rather than wearing it for 19 weeks, I beat it in seven.”

Despite losing a lot of confidence in the early stages of her recovery, Jade said her mental toughness kicked in especially when back at uni.

“It was quite uncomfortable going to uni, not only physically but people were always staring,” she said.

The high-achieving student didn’t let the discomfort slow her down though on Monday, December 14, at 2pm she will graduate with a Bachelor of Communication specialising in public relations from UQ’s School of Journalism and Communication.

“The course was great, especially the internship which gave me practical industry exposure,” she said.

“Within two weeks of finishing, I have been granted a research scholarship with Dr Courtney von Hippel from the School of Psychology, investigating the phenonmenon of pluralistic ignorance, and I have also been appointed a Communications Advisor role with Rio Tinto Alcan.”

The big question for Jade’s future is whether she will ever strap on the rollerblades again?

“Definitely not,” she said.

“The worst thing was they were brand new $300 blades, which I was wearing for only the second time. Now I’ll just have to sell them.”

Jade’s graduation ceremony is one of three ceremonies to be held on Monday at UQ’s St Lucia campus for students graduating from the Arts and Social and Behavioural Sciences’ faculties. The 11am ceremony will feature students from the Schools of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, Political Science & International Studies, and Social Science. The 2pm ceremony will feature students from the Schools of English, Media Studies & Art History, Journalism & Communication, Languages & Comparative Cultural Studies, and Music. The 6pm ceremony will feature students from the Schools of Psychology, and Social Work & Human Services.

The 6pm ceremony will see an Honorary Doctorate awarded to Mr Desmond McWilliam for his role in establishing a publishing company devoted entirely to the international dissemination of Triple P – the Positive Parenting Program.

Mr McWilliams efforts helped Triple P, which was developed by Professor Matt Sanders and his colleagues in UQ’s Parenting and Family Support Centre, to become the most widely disseminated, evidence-based parenting program in the world.

Mr McWilliam is a former director of news for Channel 10 and spent 35 years working in radio and television, prior to establishing Triple P International in strategic partnership with UniQuest Pty Limited to disseminate the Triple P Program in 2000. He is currently Director of Triple P International.

Professor Matt Sanders will be the guest speaker at the 6pm ceremony, which will also see the first graduates from Graduate Certificate in Community Relations attending a graduation.

The program was launched in 2008 under an agreement between the Minerals Council of Australia and UQ’s Centre for Social Responsibility for Mining – part of the Sustainable Minerals Institute - and the SBS Faculty, to provide a professionalisation pathway for resource personnel working in the field of community relations. The program will be expanded into a diploma and masters program in 2010.

One graduand is Walter Pondrelei, an employee from Papua New Guinea gold mining company Lihir Gold Ltd, and the first of a number from the company to complete the program.

Friends and family of graduating students who can’t make it to the UQ ceremonies will be able to watch them live on the web by clicking on either of the following links: Quicktime, or Windows Media Player.

Media: Andrew Dunne at UQ Communications (3365 2802 or 0433 364 181).