Fitting PhD studies in around a career as a school deputy principal might have its challenges, but passionate learner and new graduate Trish Grace says the experience has been “absolutely invigorating”.

Trish began studying education with UNE as an undergraduate student through distance education, which allowed her to stay at home with her three young children. The support she found at UNE while studying encouraged her to continue on with a master’s and now a PhD to pursue her particular passion for education leadership.

“I love being a part of the UNE family, it’s such a special university and place and the people who work there are always welcoming and amazing people but all so humble. They make you feel like you are an intrinsic part of something bigger,” she says. 

“I unsuccessfully attempted to study (online) through another university for a work course but the quality of service just wasn’t there. So when I decided to do my master’s degree I went back to UNE.” 

Trish says she has found UNE teachers particularly job-ready, and has experienced first-hand how it can help learners realise their potential. 

“As I progressed in my career, I noticed that the UNE graduands were usually better teachers. They are able to inspire the students in their class to reach outcomes in innovative and effective ways. They have great curriculum and pedagogical knowledge.

“The knowledge and skills I have gained from my various degrees at UNE have changed my life significantly. I have a job that I love and I get to help others love learning. UNE has provided me with the skills to become an educational leader and build my expertise in teaching.”

Now as a public school deputy principal, Trish’s focus is staff development. But whether teaching children or adults, she says her motivation is the same.

“I love to help people and believe education improves your quality of life.

“The best part of my job is the ‘lightbulb moment’. It’s so empowering for the teacher and students when people learn something new. It’s exciting and changes people’s lives. It’s something to be celebrated!”

Her PhD enabled her to explore her topic of education leadership and ways of effectively supporting others in leadership roles.

“I am absolutely fascinated by the topic of leadership. I’m intrinsically motivated to help people and I believe that great leadership is the key. I mean leadership on every level from leading yourself to being the leader of a class, school or larger organisation.

“Aspiring leaders need to be supported to learn to be leaders. We need to ensure that leaders are fully developed to ensure their health and wellbeing in leadership positions. Through my PhD I was able to develop a research based framework to support aspiring leaders.

“The experience was absolutely invigorating because I had the most amazing supervisory team in Judy Miller and David Gee. They both had so much understanding for the practical applications of the theory.”

Now having completed and graduated in December, Trish says it’s “still all a bit surreal”, but one thing’s for sure – it’s not the end of her learning journey.

“The chancellor gave an impressive and thought-provoking speech at graduation. It highlighted for me what Judy and David have personified during my PhD journey: we are always part of the UNE family and community and always supported to continue to learn. And there is always something new to learn!”