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Students in Focus

Equipping students to thrive

As someone who struggled with the pressure of exams in her high school and early university years, University of Canberra Bachelor of Science graduate and PhD student Hollie Speer knows what it’s like to be overwhelmed by academia.

Now – only two years away from completing her thesis – Hollie is passionate about ensuring that the university journey is smooth and supported for new students.

In her role as a Student Mentor with UC Thrive, Hollie is focused on student wellbeing, academic and financial support, and is involved in the running of fun events for all UC students.

“I cannot tell you how much UC Thrive has enriched my experience at university. Everyone we speak to says the same thing: ‘I wish I had this support in my first year’,” Hollie says.

UC Thrive is a program run by the Student Equity, Participation and Wellbeing team, and aims to support all UC students to be the best version of themselves.

The team runs a range of programs, events, and initiatives to support students, including a UC Student Mentor Program, activities, regional student programs, pop-ups and mature-aged student help.

Hollie says the services UC Thrive offers would have been incredibly beneficial when she began uni.

“I struggled in my undergraduate degree course – I didn’t do well in exams – and in a science degree, it’s very exam-focused,” she says.

“If there had been something like the UC Thrive program when I started, I would have definitely tapped into those resources. It’s just a great support to help people to thrive and I’m glad that I did find it in my later years.”

Her advice to her fellow students is that there is no shame in seeking help.

“You don’t have to be in the position where you’re struggling, to access support services. UC Thrive is just about creating awareness and showcasing what’s available to you. It’s about building that confidence, so you know that if anything does challenge you along the way you’re equipped,” says Hollie.

“You’ll be ready and aware of the support available to you to help change your narrative of success.”

Now, Hollie is exceeding even her own academic expectations. Her PhD focuses on hypertension in older populations and the physiological changes that come with aging.

For someone who struggled in a Bachelor of Science, she’s certainly found her niche.

“Once I found the subject areas that weren’t too intimidating, and things that once challenged me became easier, I was instantly drawn to that field of research. I knew it was where I needed to be.”

Hollie is passionate about her study, and motivated to enter the health research sphere once she graduates.

“I want to go into clinical research and work more on the patient side of things,” she says.

“I love working with patients who have had heart attacks or strokes and are in the rehabilitation stage. Working in research with those individuals to help intervene and get their health back is exactly where I want to be.”

Outside of study, Hollie is someone who loves spending time with friends, family and her pets. Having grown up in Goulburn, NSW, she loves getting out into nature and practising a balanced lifestyle.

“PhD study, while working at the same time, takes a lot of mental energy. It can really take a toll,” she says.

“I always try to make time to ground myself and get back to being me – the person I am outside of all this.”

Words by Elly Mackay, photos by Madeleine Wood.

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