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Elite athletes realise their sporting dreams and academic goals

Newsroom Team

8 October 2019. The University of Canberra’s dedication to guiding the nation’s leading sportspeople through their degrees will again be highlighted at the upcoming graduation ceremonies later this week.

UC’s role in providing an environment for elite athlete students to succeed both academically, and in their chosen sporting fields, has never been more evident.

The University currently supports 144 registered athletes under the Elite Athlete Program, which includes flexibility for assessment deadlines and attendance, based on sporting commitments. The program also includes flexibility in the timing and location of attendance at Work Integrated Learning (WIL) placements, while the elite athletes also have a dedicated support officer, they’re able to tailor their workload to their sporting commitments. 

Nathan Jones from UC’s Student Welfare and Elite Athlete Office, Student Life, says the program continues to grow by ten to 20 additional registrations each year. “UC is dedicated to helping our students in the Elite Athlete Program balance their sporting commitments with their academic goals,” said Mr Jones.

The program has proven incredibly successful in guiding sportspeople through their degrees. Eleven graduated in March this year, another four this October, with ten more on track to graduate in 2020.

The four graduating in this round of graduations highlight how flexibility in studies can be combined with a high-level sporting career. 

Tennis player Storm Sanders spends, on average, 35 to 40 weeks on the road each year in the pursuit of success on the tennis circuit. Storm will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She was also a recipient of the Eldon and Anne Foote Scholarship this year worth $10,000. 

Ms Sanders said UC’s flexibility allowed her to study while on the tennis circuit, “I wouldn’t have been able to complete this course without the University’s support. The flexibility has enabled me to keep going with both my tennis and my studies.”

National 200-metre runner, Sophie Stanwell, will graduate with a Bachelor of Human Nutrition (Honours).

She said UC’s assistance was invaluable in guiding her through her honours year, “They were able to organise things to allow me to do both; doing an Honours degree is hard. You need to do a research project within ten months. It clashed with the national track and field titles and I was able to get an extension.” She is currently working as a sports dietician and plans to do more research in the future.

Australian women’s hockey player Kalindi Commerford will graduate with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Communication in Journalism, she also benefited from UC’s flexibility with plenty of time required for tour and training camps with the Hockeyroos. She said she intends to use her degree to advocate for things outside Hockey.

“My goal is to find a niche area and drive policies behind the scenes. If I can finish my working career having changed lives I will be satisfied.”

Australian women’s rugby union player, Michaela Lee Leonard will graduate with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy after debuting in the Australian Women’s Rugby Union team in July this year. She was another to benefit from UC’s flexibility when it came to Work Integrated Learning placements. She plans on combining work as a physiotherapist and her rugby career in the foreseeable future.

“I want to achieve as much as I can in rugby,” said Ms Leonard, whose experience as an Elite Athlete will provide her with a unique insight as a physiotherapist.

All four graduating students have shown incredible commitment to their studies and sporting careers. Their success demonstrates that with UC’s guidance sporting dreams can be realised while achieving academic goals.