My Story – Student Voice: Joseph Dawson
Joseph Dawson is in his third year at Federation University after returning to successful study as a mature age student with the support of Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) funded initiatives, to which he now gives back his own skills and experience. The first in his family to pursue tertiary education, Joseph is now in the process of applying for Graduate Medicine, achieving a high Grade Point Average and scoring in the top 10 per cent of the Graduate Medical Schools Admission Test.
I was the first in my family to attend university. At first it went okay, but after the first semester my grades started to suffer. This wasn’t through lack of trying, ability, or perseverance; I had no friends at university and there wasn’t an opportunity to meet people from my course. Without a social network or any skills to transition to higher education my grades declined and I decided to leave.
After working in various jobs until I was 32, I returned to study at Federation University. This required moving from Darwin, where I was living at the time, back to Gippsland where I grew up. Being a mature age student, I was worried about fitting in, making friends, and doing well. After all, I hadn’t been to university for more than 10 years.
FedReady was the first major turning point for me. It provided me with the study skills, time management, and computer skills I needed to do well at university. Initially, I didn’t feel it was necessary for me and, since I was driving from Darwin to Victoria, I tried to wriggle out of it. My tutor advised me it would be beneficial to complete, and I reluctantly wrote the essay which was a program requirement. It might seem like a small thing, however, like making your bed in the morning, it set the standard for the rest of my course.
I vividly remember orientation day at university. The bright colours that young students wore were a long way from the dusty environment of the mine I had left. I felt out of place, at least until I met my mentor, who was doing the same course as me. They reassured me that I would be okay, and they were there to answer any questions. I also had the opportunity to meet some students from my course and make valuable friends, which was a huge benefit on many levels. For example, if there were instructions I missed, or wasn’t sure of, I could check with them, and vice versa. The mentor provided a contact point, and often simply someone to say ‘Hi’ to each day. This created a smooth transition and a sense of belonging that I had lacked first time around.
The availability of learning skills advisors (LSAs) at university has helped me. I found that, when I began to procrastinate, just 10 minutes with an LSA gave me the tools and motivation to click into gear and keep on the track to completion. The maths and statistics drop-in centre has also been of assistance to me during my third year research project. Having that guidance is valuable in providing simple advice or a point in the right direction.
I participated in the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) program during weeks that I had difficulty with content. During the first semester I utilised the CheckMate service provided by YourTutor which offered general feedback on assignments and essay structure, allowing me to move forward with confidence and focus on the finer details.
I was also fortunate enough to receive a book bursary, allowing me to purchase the text books I required which would have otherwise caused financial strain. The bursary also showed me that the university cares about the welfare of students and their outcomes.
Now in my third year, I work in some of the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) funded initiatives, such as mentoring, PASS, and the Academic Skills and Knowledge (ASK) service. This employment has allowed me to continue at university with the funds to succeed, and I get to see first-hand the difference the programs make to students’ outcomes. In my time at Federation University I have been lucky enough to be awarded membership to Golden Key, Academic Excellence 1st Year Biomedical Science, W&D Finance Biomedical Science Prize (Albert Coates Award), and the Clarence Claude Fisher Scholarship.
I would like to take some credit for my success, however, my achievements and overall enjoyment of the environment as a result of participating in HEPPP funded programs has made a huge difference to my time at university. For this I am grateful.
Read more My Story — Student Voice here.