Life as a GradSchool student

Nelson Burand-Hicks: On sustainability through community empowerment

We recently had the chance to sit down for a chat with Nelson Burand-Hicks, a passionate and engaging sustainability driver with a mission to connect his community with nature. 

Nelson currently serves as a Sustainability Officer at Muswellbrook Shire Council, where he is passionate about engaging with the community and helping them connect and fall in love with the environment they live in. 

GS: Thanks for coming in Nelson. Let's start with why you decided to pursue a career in environmental management? 

Most people go to uni with an idea of what they want to do. I went in knowing I loved the environment and I loved science. I had an idea of where I could see myself working, I first thought I wanted to do research, but then I realised it wasn't for me. So I thought I would go into consultancy, because that was the only other career option I was aware of at the time. I did end up consulting for a while, but due to the economic downturn I lost my job. In hindsight, I am glad that happened, because it drove me to do my postgraduate degree.

It wasn't until I embarked on the Master of Environmental Management and Sustainability that the management aspect really got instilled in me. My eyes were opened to all of the innovative and exciting ways to approach problems or issues and I began to understand what a huge impact one can have when approaching these issues with a positive mindset.

The masters program was a really good opportunity for me to for me develop my skills beyond my bachelors degree and I don't think I would be where I am today without it. I now work at Muswellbrook Shire Council where my focus is on sustainability. A big part of my job is to engage with the local community and listen to their ideas, so we are developing community programs that invite them to participate in the decision-making process. I am really excited to be working in a supportive environment where I have the freedom to develop these programs and collaborate with the community.  

GS: What were some major differences between your undergrad and postgrad degree?

NBH: I had an amazing undergraduate experience, but it was a time of lots of different thoughts. It was during my postgrad experience, that my idea of what I wanted to do shifted.

My postgraduate degree essentially added another layer or dimension to my undergraduate study. It made it more contemporary and I had a lot of scope and opportunity to tackle some complex problems and issues. The format enables you to really grasp an issue and run as far as you want with it, which is really cool because you're at the point in your career where you can apply your study to your practice. You also have a good idea of where you want to be in the future. And for me, I began to realise that my passion lied with linking community and the environment.

GS: What was your favourite course in the program?

NBH: My favourite course was Implementing Environmental Resilience and Addressing Complexity taught by Dr Bonnie McBain. 

Teachers do make or break a course, and for me, Dr Bonnie McBain, even in an online course, was extremely supportive and inspiring. She changed my mindset and gave my an excited and refreshed approach to working. She taught me the impact that we, as individuals, can have. The coursework was novel, exciting and progressive and I can definitely see the positive influence my studies are having in my career. I started thinking about science in a less traditional sense and seeing the contemporary imapct science has made in our society. In doing so, I've learned the importance of involving the community in science and the correlations that has to environmental resilience and social resilience.

GS: Tell us a bit about your personal project, Snorkelling Lake & Sea.

NBH: I think that anything you do as a job, you've got to like. Personally, I am really passionate about the idea of valuing the environment in which you live and having a pride of place. I was living near Lake Macquarie and I was thinking that when most people think of Australian sea life they immediately think of the Great Barrier Reef. And don't get my wrong, the Great Barrier Reef is an amazing place but I also thought about how I could instill a pride of place in my community and, as a result, I created Snorkelling Lake & Sea

I have underwater cameras and I often snorkel there to show people what amazing aquatic animals are within arms reach of our homes. I hope that by providing a snapshot of aquatic wildlife on NSW's east coast, through a variety of educational mediums, I will encourage a wider appreciation of aquatic life in the community.

GS: Any advice for other pursuing a career in environmental management? 

NBH: Each person will know in their mind what they love doing. If you love the environment, take time to have a chat with a lecturer or someone who works in the field and tell them what you hope to get out of a degree and your career. They can give you advice and guidance that will help get you to where you want to go. But essentially, if you enjoy it and can see yourself making a difference, than I would advise you to just go for it! 

GS: What environmental changes would you like to see be made in Australia?

NBH: Empowering the community is absolutely paramount to me. Even as environmental professionals, we have our own knowledge and skills, but it's not effective without having buy-in from the community or society at large.

I would also like to see the mindset of nature being outside of cities and outside of communities change. It's important to have green space in cities and engage people in urban wildlife. These initatives have a positive impact on both nature and the happiness of the people in the community.

For example, I just recently had a story in the Muswellbrook Chronicle about Magpie season and why they swoop. They are amazing and absolutely beautiful creatures, but we often hate or fear them for a few weeks each year. When you look at the numbers, only 12% swoop, and of that 12%, only half swoop pedestrians and cyclists, so it's only a minority. And that minority is only trying to look after their kids when they feel threatened. Magpies live for up to 20 years and they can recognise faces, so if you leave them in peace and establish a good relationship with a Magpie, they'll remember you and leave you alone. Plus, Magpies are a great natural pest control, they'll take care of you lawn grubs!

It's education initatives like this that can change people's mindset. I will continue to educate the community and collaborate with them to instill a sense of pride and appreciation for our local environment.

Nelson left us with an inspiring quote from a textbook he used in the program:
The story is told of a young emperor in ancient China who was exploring the labyrinthine interior of his palace. In his wanderings he came upon a room in which the palace butcher was carving carcasses. He watched the butcher at work for some time and was surprised to find that he didn’t stop to sharpen his carving knife. The emperor inquired: ‘My good man. I am surprised to see that you do not sharpen your knife. Surely with such work, it must frequently become blunt?’ The butcher replied : ‘Your Highness is correct in perceiving that for this work the sharpest of knives is necessary. However, I seldom need to sharpen my knife as I cut where there is least resistance.’ As change agents, we too need to learn how to work with the grain rather than against it, to act with skill and sure timing to ensure that our limited energy has maximum impact in bringing about movement towards the fully sustainable organisation.
  - From ‘Organizational Change for Corporate Sustainability’ by Benn, Dunphy &Griffiths

If you think you've got what it taked to be a change agent and you're interested in the Master of Environmental Management in Sustainability or the 4-course Graduate Certificate in Environmental Management in Sustainability, visit the program pages or contact us to learn more! 

What skills are employers looking for in 2017?

If you are looking for work or contemplating study in 2017, it pays to know what employers want and whether or not your resume has what it takes to secure that fantastic job or course placement.
Let GradSchool help you to discover what employers want in 2017 with our top four skills list taken from articles by employment experts from around the globe.

1. Higher education and qualifications that add value.

While more and more people are choosing to attend college or university after high school, most organisations still want their future staff to be formally trained, especially when it comes to knowledge-based jobs in the professional services sector. According to an article on The New Daily it comes down to competition for good jobs being very tight, so those without the university level education are at a disadvantage from the start.

Hays spokesperson Nick Deligiannis, managing director for Australia and New Zealand says, “In compiling our list of skills in demand, one common trend was employers’ requests for candidates who can add extra value.

“That could be through previous experience in a related discipline, prior process improvements or efficiency gains, additional tickets or qualifications or advanced digital or systems skills, all of which allow a candidate to perform supplementary duties. Any candidate who offers additional value stands out.”

2. Cutting edge technology knowledge.

According to new research compiled by Linked In, employers are increasingly on the lookout for candidates with high-level technology skills across multiple industries and not just within IT businesses.

LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher explains, “While some skills expire every couple of years, our data strongly suggests that tech skills will still be needed for years to come, in every industry.” In demand technology skills advertised by employers through Linked In include cloud and distributed computing knowledge, user interface design skills for mobile apps and online programs and statistical analysis and data mining.

3. Focus and attention to detail.

The focus on technology while important, is not the be-all-and end all, employers still need their staff to show they can focus on the task at hand and not be distracted.

Caroline Beaton, a journalist at Forbes spoke to over 100 HR managers who strongly advocated for new staff to show they can pay attention to detail. In an article for she says, “Technology has increased automation and decreased our focus, creating a demand for, and short

supply of workers capable of concentrating.” She advises applicants to watch for careless typing and formatting errors in resumes and cover letters and to demonstrate to new employers that they can spend time on projects from beginning to end, showcasing strong time management and attention to detail skills.

4. Humility and teamwork.

While confidence is always valued, a sense of humility is proving important with employers seeking staff that can work well as part of a team and not be subject to the whims of inflated egos.

According to research by Caroline Beaton for asking for help when you need it is one of the best skills of all. She says, “On a day-to-day scale, people who think they know everything aren’t trainable, nor are they good collaborators. Admitting you’re a beginner, over and over again, takes practice. It’s also our only hope of actually advancing.”

To get yourself ahead of the pack for 2017 why not consider upgrading your current skills with a postgraduate course at GradSchool?
Find out more about our flexible learning programs for 2017 here or call for more information on 1800 88 21 21.

Five ways to combat stress and return to work refreshed in 2017!

Sitting back at your desk contemplating long ‘to do’ lists and looming deadlines makes any recent summer holiday fun seem like a very distant memory.

Factor in some time away from your day-to-day project work to get mentally prepared, and keep those ‘holiday feels’ happening with our top five ways to hit the ground running in 2017…

1. Clear your email inbox; update your Linked In profile and tick off those non-essential administrative jobs. Archive or delete old emails, clear and clean your desk, shred unimportant paperwork and update social media channels with your latest qualifications and experience, especially if you are looking to impress new employers in 2017. These ‘low priority’ admin tasks often get bumped to the bottom of the list, but block out some time to work through them and you will feel as if you are starting the work or study year with a fresh, clean slate.

2. Forget New Year’s resolutions, write up a list of goals for the year ahead the year ahead. Everyone knows that resolutions don’t last long and vague weight loss or wellbeing dreams won't come to fruition without defined targets and huge amounts of dedication. Instead of simply resolving to do something non-specific, why not spend some time writing a list of actual goals and how you plan to achieve them? If you have always wanted to study, look into courses, start dates and costs. If you want a career break or change, look at actual ways this can be achieved and how. Set dates, make yourself accountable and above all, be realistic about what you want to achieve in 2017.

3. Take a proper break from your core work. Keep that summer holiday vibe running a bit longer by allocating some time in your new year work routine to get outside and go swimming, walking or play backyard cricket with your family. Talk to your manager about the possibility of having the occasional longer lunch, late start or early finish to make the most of longer summer days. Studies have shown that productivity actually increases when workers are less stressed and have more time to do what they love so always keep this in mind when considering how you can be happier at work.

4. Be digitally aware to clear the mind and ‘switch off’ from work. Being tied to your smart phone all day every day can be very useful when you have a lot on, but it can also be stress inducing and incompatible with relaxation time. Turn off your device to eat your lunch in peace or when you arrive home from work and see how you feel knowing you are available only to those around you. In our busy modern world where everything is 24/7, it can feel strange to be disconnected but try it for a few days and see what happens, you might be surprised at how easy it is to live without being constantly ‘plugged in’ and you will probably have time to do more and see more of the people you love in 2017.

5. If you still feel stressed about the year ahead, take advantage of the support services available. If you need more than just a couple of weeks off work to de-stress there might be a genuine reason why this is. Anxiety or depression can result from prolonged periods of stress and if you are unable to relax and enjoy yourself with loved ones this festive season, take it seriously and prioritise your well-being. For more information on looking after your physical and mental health at work visit and be sure to talk to the people around you about how you feel. The University of Newcastle also offers counselling services for students and staff (info here). 

To find out more about the huge selection of postgraduate courses commencing at GradSchool in 2017, visit our website:

Future of Work 2030: Soft Skills and Digital Literacies

Two major recently released reports have highlighted the need for the Australian workforce to adapt to a radically altered industrial landscape, where technology will reshape conditions and generate demand for “soft skills”, digital literacies and an entrepreneurial mindset.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) released their Australia’s Future Workforce? report in June 2015, predicting that close to 40 percent of the jobs in Australia have a “high probability of being substituted with computing” over the next few decades, and an “additional 18 percent has a medium probability”.

The Regional Australia Institute released its Future of Work 2030 report in November 2016, arguing that the next decade and a half will see a rapidly changing work landscape and that future jobs will be “flexible, entrepreneurial and dynamic”.

Their research highlights the role of globalisation and technology in creating uncertainty around job futures, as automation sees many work functions become redundant and expands its influence beyond low-skill, labour intensive roles to include medium and some high skill level jobs.

The research also argues that a number of trends are yet to peak in their effects, including the growing economic influence of Africa, burgeoning Asian individualism, growing personalization of products, the role of environmental challenges and sustainability, and changes in the pattern of work.

In the face of this volatility, new jobs will continue to emerge, particularly around three key areas; mixing high-tech, personal contact (‘touch’) and care activities. High technology skills will be necessary across the range of professional roles, from engineers to design the next drone, to primary school teachers who must be prepared to work environment with students. There will be a growing demand for the high touch roles, where people “do and deliver”, performing house renovations, acting as personal assistants or pursuing their passion for photography.

The Regional Australia Institute report also highlighted the impact of increased personalisation of products and work in a digital world means future jobs will require more digital skills and training to become more entrepreneurial to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

As such, the report suggests hard specialist knowledge skills like Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), need to be complemented with Entrepreneurship, Art and Design – or “STEAMED”. The common lesson across these perspectives on the future of work is the requirement for an entrepreneurial mindset, a capacity for adaptive learning, and the need for upskilling in a mix of digital literacies and soft skills that promote e×ective interpersonal interaction.

In addition to technical skills and knowledge, jobs of the future will require high levels of skill in communication, collaboration, creativity and problem solving, and the University of Newcastle offers a range of Masters programs that promote this mix of skills and attributes with a professional focus. Just a few examples of our innovative programs include the Master of Public Health, the Master of Studies, the Master of Creative Industries, the Master of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship and the Master of Educational Studies.

If you are a professional person looking to enhance your career by upskilling and diversifying, click here to learn more – discover what you will study and the career opportunities it can provide.

Are you thinking about postgrad study in 2017 - consider these 4 things before you commit

Are you thinking about learning something new and exciting in 2017? Have you decided that 2017 is THE year to dedicate to developing your career aspirations and goals?
If you think postgraduate study might be right for you, check out GradSchool’s list of the Four Steps to consider before you decide to enrol in the course of your dreams.

STEP 1: Do you know what you want to study? How passionate are you about the subject?

It might sound like an obvious one but if there are a number of degrees or courses you might like the sound of, can you be sure which one you should study? Which one might be the most relevant for your career? Will you enjoy it?

Take some time to consider your options, read the course details and ask the education provider some probing questions. Studying is hard work and can take time away from the things and the people you love so you'll want to make sure it is something you really want to do before signing up! 

While not every single subject will elicit feelings of ‘passion’, if you think that overall the program will be enjoyable and beneficial to your career, then you are on the right path!

STEP 2: Can you realistically fit studying into your schedule?

Many people considering postgraduate study are already working in demanding jobs, have families or in some cases, both! Consider how you will juggle study time into the mix.

Will it be at after work when you would normally be at the gym? Or at night when the kids are asleep? Might you be able to reduce your work hours or be able to take some study leave at exam time? Discuss your study wishes with the important people in your life such as immediate family or your boss. It's important to know how studying might affect them and their time with you while you reach your studying goals.

STEP 3: Have you considered how will you manage the cost?

Postgraduate study can be expensive, and while there are ways of managing the financial side of paying for a course, have you looked at the options available to you?

An employer might be able to contribute or cover the costs if they consider the benefit this qualification will have to you in your role with their company. There are also scholarships, FEE-HELP loans or payment plan options available to you. Chat to the program convenor to ensure you know what your options are and how you can plan to make it work financially.

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” - B.B. King

STEP 4: Does this course and its outcome fit into your ten-year career plan?

No one knows exactly where they will be in 10 years but you might have an idea of the sort of career path you hope to follow in the long-term.

This course you have been considering might seem like it would suit you and your career now, but does it make sense when you consider where you want to be in 10 years? If you are just thinking about this course because it will help you feel less bored in your current work, consider whether or not it will also be relevant to your dream career?

If you just really want to study and are hungry to learn, why not consider a more generic course so that the eventual qualifications can be applied across industries, even if you do make a sideways leap in the future. The University of Newcastle offers a postgraduate program where you can Create your own degree and choose to study the courses and subjects that are interesting to you. 

If you can say ‘yes’ to all four of the steps above and you feel ready to find out more about postgraduate study in 2017, contact GradSchool today.
You can also explore all of our postgraduate programs here

Chaos and culture in Hong Kong

Last month thirteen UON students studying architecture and construction management got the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong and China to study urban living environments in the fourth densest populated city in the world. Here, Chris Hanlon a recent Bachelor of Design (architecture) graduate who’s now working in industry explains how it gave him a whole new perspective on architecture and how he is now drawn to the Pearl of the Orient.

1. What was the purpose behind the recent student field trip to Hong Kong and China and who was involved? 

The overriding premise behind the trip was to expose us to different urban environments and how they adapt to meet the needs of local people. As well as Hong Kong, we also spent two days in mainland China visiting (our lecturer and trip leader) Derren’s ancestral village in Shunde, in the Guangzhou province. Here we were introduced to courtyard houses and village style living that is typical of the area. 

2. What was the most interesting experience you had as part of the trip? 

Definitely, the way that Hong Kong plans its expansion and how they utilise every parcel of land that they can. Planning regulations in Hong Kong require all services and amenities (subway lines, telephone connections, schools, parks, hospitals, etc.) to be in place before the construction of housing and businesses even commences. This planning procedure ensures that each new area of Hong Kong is set up in a way that ensures its success – something I think Australian cities can learn from. 

3. Which city or town did you find most interesting and why? 

Not specifically any part of Hong Kong, but the way they live. The lifestyle in the city is this peculiar mix of Eastern and Western cultures that seems to hold on to some of its more ancient traditions, all the while embracing many new and modern norms from Western countries. 

4. Was it all just about looking at flashy new high rises? 

Not entirely. We did look at many of the new high-rises, but in more of a lets-critique-and-evaluate-them kind of way. The main purpose was to demonstrate that high-density living with a large population in condensed location is feasible. Personally, I would say we – as a country – need to be expanding our urban centres vertically – rather than horizontally – with attention being given to the provision of public amenities and infrastructure before people move in and occupy the area. 

5. What was it like travelling with your fellow students and lecturers, was it a good group? 

We ranged in age from 19 through to 27, all with different backgrounds, life experiences, and personalities. Working in close quarters in the Architecture Design Studio on campus means that we have all seen each other around, but not necessarily had contact with one another. So the trip kind of became a bridge between the different years and degrees that we may not have individually taken the time to put in if it wasn’t for the trip. 

6. Did the trip change your perspective on architecture, how? 

I have travelled quite a lot previously, but I have never experienced the sheer density and organised chaos that is Hong Kong. I can remember looking at photos of Hong Kong city before the trip and thinking “how the hell does anyone live comfortably in that environment?” But, having spent time there I can see myself living and working there for at least 12 months. It’s a city that thrives on challenges and is constantly working to make itself more efficient. 

7. What would you say to students thinking about studying architecture at UON? 

Do it. I applied to three different universities to study architecture – UNSW, QUT, and UON – I was offered a spot at all three, but took my first preference of UON. I don’t regret my choice. The lifestyle that Newcastle city offers is amazing and the facilities that we have access to at uni are fantastic. If I didn’t have access to the Architecture Design Studio I would not be as successful in my studies as I have been. Having 30 or 40 other students in the same boat as you, around you each day makes it more enjoyable. Each project is different, but you always have 40 opinions on hand to tell you where to go to move forward– which isn’t always helpful, but it’s nice that the option is there! 

8. You’ve just finished your third and final year of your undergraduate degree, what’s next for you? 

I’ve just started working full time at Webber Architects. So far it has been great because they have me using the skills and knowledge that I have gained over the last three years of study. It’s challenging because these are real-world projects that can fail if something isn’t correctly implemented – which is also terrifying! Next year I’ll go into the Master of Architecture degree at UON, which is a further two years of study, while working part time. 

9. Would you recommend other students get involved in the field trips to Indonesia, Nepal, Hong Kong and Alice Springs next year?

Absolutely! From what I heard the Alice Springs and Indonesia trips were awesome. Everyone had a great time and experienced so much more than they thought they would and more than they would if they just spent their mid-semester break at home. 

Connect with archilife at UON:

Facebook: @uonarchitecture

Instagram: @uonarch

The Most Innovative in the Business - The top 5 Australian companies to work for and why

Do you work for an organisation that is stuck in the past or do you dream of one day running an innovative business of your own?

GradSchool lists five of the best and most innovative Australian companies that invest in their staff by offering unbelievable benefits and perks. Read on for some ideas that could be worth bringing up with the boss at the next staff meeting…

1. Unlimited Paid Annual Leave –Inventium  

Inspired by big global businesses such as Virgin Atlantic and Netflix, Amantha Imber Founder of Melbourne-based innovation consultancy Inventium offers all staff an unlimited amount of paid annual leave.

Called ‘rebalanced leave’ Inventium employees get the standard four weeks then can top up with additional paid leave when they feel the need to ‘rebalance’. Talking to Mamamia, Amantha says, “It all comes down to trust. I trust my team to do what is right for themselves and their teams, both within and outside the company.”

2. Flexible Hours – ANZ

In our digital age of smart phones, file sharing via the cloud or Google docs, there is often no need for staff to be in a shared building for precisely eight hours per day.

In 2016 ANZ understands that it is less about how many hours you do and more about how smart you work. Their Chief Human Resources Officer Susie Babani says, “We need to be thinking about what we pay people to do, which is deliver results. Does it matter if that’s at home or at Starbucks? At 8pm or 6am? Probably not.” It should be something all companies view as “the new normal” Susie says.

3. Unique Office Environment – Airbnb

There are absolutely no uninspiring grey cubicles or drab boardrooms at the Airbnb HQ in Surry Hills. Airbnb Australia Country Manager Sam McDonagh says that with two of the co-founders being designers, it was inevitable that the working environment was always going to be beautiful and comfortable.

“Our new Sydney office captures what we value as a company: creativity, travel, and thoughtful design. At the core of Airbnb is the connection between people and spaces, and we have created a unique layout that inspires our employees to move around and work from where ever they want. A bean bag; secret space behind a hidden door bookshelf; or perhaps a cosy Sweden living room.”

4. Cheap Travel - Qantas

There is cheap travel and then there is super cheap travel and our number one Australian airline Qantas offers staff up to 90% discount on all airfares!

Although it is apparently hard to book staff flights at peak times in the year, just think of the money to be saved on holidays every year.

The best part is that the discounts apply to business class flights so it is not just cheap travel, but luxury travel too.

5. A $2,000 referral bonus – Atlassian

Good companies value their employees. Innovative companies not only value current employees but are also prepared to invest money in finding the perfect future team member.

While some companies might have a referral scheme that offers current employees a few hundred dollars to help them find a new staff member, software development firm Atlassian pays a hefty $2,000 for referring the right applicant for a full-time permanent job. Amazingly you don’t even have to work for them to qualify for the bonus!

Are you feeling inspired by these five innovative Australia based companies? Do you want to find out more about what it takes to become an entrepreneur or innovator in your field of work?
Why not consider studying the brand new Master of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship at the University of Newcastle in 2017?  Applications close 16 January 2017.
Find out more by calling 1800 882 121.

Source information for this blog piece is thanks to Mamamia, News Ltd, The Huffington Post and Seek.

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