Chancellor Nick Burton Taylor with Former Mayor of Lismore Jenny Dowell accepts her doctorate at Southern Cross University Graduation Ceremony 2017.
Chancellor Nick Burton Taylor with Former Mayor of Lismore Jenny Dowell accepts her doctorate at Southern Cross University Graduation Ceremony 2017. New Camera House

Dr Dowell leads graduates

REFLECTING on the surreal moment of receiving her Southern Cross University doctorate last Saturday, former Lismore City Council mayor Jenny Dowell said she "felt almost like a fraud”.

The respected leader who was a Lismore councillor for 12 years and mayor for eight, was overwhelmed at joining the ranks of other recipients of the Doctor of University award, such as United Nations Peace building head Jose Ramos-Horta and Justice Michael Kirby.

"I don't really even like mentioning the names of Jose Ramos-Horta and Michael Kirby and then me, I don't feel I belong in that category at all, it is really overwhelming and so I feel almost like a fraud, because it's something I could never, ever have imagined,” Mrs Dowell said.

She paid tribute to the university's 245 graduates on Saturday, many of whom she said were, like her,

the first in their families

to gain a tertiary qualification.

"You see students and you can imagine their back story, the struggles, the trials and tribulations of juggling, whether it's family or work ... it's a credit (to SCU),” Mrs Dowell said.

"As we know SCU has the highest number, of any university in the country, of students who are the first in their family to go to university.”

Mrs Dowell, 66, holds a teachers' college qualification, has taught deaf children for 35 years, was a lecturer in speech at the University of Melbourne, attended 30 SCU graduations during her time as mayor and holds two university degrees, including a Bachelor of Arts.

"Arts degrees have been ridiculed in recent decades as being good training for waiting on tables but I will always be a supporter of a general arts degree in teaching critical thinking and challenging assumptions,” she said in her speech as the occasional speaker.

Mrs Dowell advised this year's graduantsgraduates, including Gabrielle Biland, 24, and Rachel Gordge, 26, to "never stop learning” and "work out what you believe in and be brave in working to achieve it”.

It took five years full-time study for Ms Biland and Ms Gordge to complete a bachelor's Masters in Osteopathic Medicine, with Ms Gordge commuting from the Gold Coast to the Lismore campus for the duration of the course.

Both graduantsgraduates have landed jobs before the graduation ceremony, with Ms Gordge to work on the Gold Coast while and Ms Biland will to move to Sydneywork at a Sydney clinic.

"I think everyone in our (24-person) cohort did get a job,” Ms Biland said.

"It (graduating) feels surreal, it feels like a little bit of a lie, like I should

still be studying for an exam.”



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