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What we’ve learnt: our Graduate Medal winners share their advice

13 April 2022
The 2022 Graduate Award winners share what they've learned
The Alumni Awards and Graduate Medals recognise the exceptional achievements of alumni and recent graduates. Here, some of the 2022 Graduate Medal winners share what they’ve learnt about studying, goal-setting, and making the most of your time at university.
Olivia Morris wearing a black jacket and standing in front of a lecturn to give a speech

Olivia Morris

Face your problems head on

Olivia Morris, who won the Convocation Medal for undergraduate leadership, completed a Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Laws. During her time at university she co-founded national, online student-run publication, Et Cetera, and she volunteered for Teach Us Consent, an organisation contributing to the national debate about ‘consent’ and inadequacy of sex education in Australian schools.

As someone who values working in a team and encourages students to take advantage of every opportunity the University of Sydney has to offer, Olivia’s key study tip is to face a problem head on.

“It helps to sink into a problem rather than skirt past it, but if you get stuck, remember to ask for help from your friends and tutors. The best part of university is learning collaboratively and enjoying the process.”

Olivia is currently a Lawyer in Allens’ disputes and investigations team after starting at the firm in 2018 as a paralegal.

Two men stand on yacht wearing yellow vests and holding Australian flag

Will Ryan

Focus on why you want to learn

For William Ryan, who was awarded the Nigel C Barker Medal for sporting achievement, his time at university allowed him to learn about not just his study areas of business and commerce, but also his sport and himself.

Will, who completed a Bachelor of Commerce in 2013 and a Master of Management in 2021, has been competing as a sailor since he was 13 years old. Competing throughout his time at university, he represented Australia and won a Silver Medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, then a Gold Medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This taught him a lot about balancing his studies and his sporting pursuits.

“The balance of my chosen sport and my study interest required me to manage my time, push my learning to new levels, and continue to evolve. I recommend creating a philosophy about why you want to continue to learn – this will help you find interests even in areas you might not expect.”

Katie Moore in graduation gown

Katie Moore

Take the time to learn about yourself, not just your studies

Katie Moore, winner of the Edmund Barton Medal for postgraduate leadership, was a recipient of the UN Women National Committee Australia MBA Scholarship where she recently became the University’s first known Indigenous MBA graduate.

During her degree, Katie worked with Indigenous communities to deliver economic outcomes through the management of a tourism investment portfolio at Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), and later advised on embedding Indigenous strategy through faculties and business units at the University. She is now a Project Manager at Sydney Policy Lab, where she delivers place-based projects addressing social, economic and environmental justice.

When it comes to studying, Katie stresses the importance of finding out what works for you and tailoring your study habits.

“For me, it was the ability to have other people act as sounding boards. I enjoy collaborative processes – personal reflections, not so much. Be clear on what is required for your own personal goals and break them down into bite sized chunks.”

Dr Vimallan Manokara wearing a white business shirt and standing in front of a banner while presenting to an audience

Dr Vimallan Manokara

Look to the future

Dr Vimallan Manokara completed his PhD in 2021 and is the recipient of the John C Harsanyi Medal for Innovation. Vimallan is now the Head of MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore) institute, where he drives applied research and innovation in disability services.

With his thesis topic titled “The Framework of Sustainable Employment for People with Disabilities”, Vimallan has made significant advancements in his fields of disability and health, including leading the development of three key frameworks and action plans to improve employment outcomes for persons with disabilities.

Vimallan believes that learning never stops, and advises students to do something that both energises them and feeds their sense of purpose. “It is not just about achieving the degree, but what you do with it and after it, that really matters. My motivation is to continue to impact social change and improve the lives of persons with disabilities internationally.”

It is not just about achieving the degree, but what you do with it and after it, that really matters.
Dr Vimallan Manokara
Nikki-Anne Wilson wearing blue dress with floral print smiling at camera with laboratory in background

Dr Nikki-Anne Wilson

Be curious and take charge of your learning

Dr Nikki-Anne Wilson won the Rita and John Cornforth Medal for research excellence after completing her PhD in 2021. Her contribution to the research field of rare dementia syndromes has been widely recognised through awards, multiple publications in high-impact journals, and extensive international and local conference presentations.

Nikki-Anne credits her success to an inherent curiosity and love of learning, a passion to improve the lives of those living with severe neurodegenerative diseases, and her determination to overcome challenges.

“Learning happens when we open our minds to new perspectives and forge alternative pathways.”

Having missed nearly her entire secondary education due to severe illness, Nikki-Anne says her unique experiences helped drive her success. “I developed the capacity to take charge of my own learning. Unbeknownst to me at the time, these skills would serve me well throughout my PhD.” She encourages all students to embrace their strengths, within and beyond the classroom. 

If you know an alumni or student in their final year of study who is making a profound impact in their chosen field, nominate them for the 2023 Alumni Awards.

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