The student experience is not uniform, nor is it one size fits all.
Jennie Cameron started at the University in 1986 as a mature aged student.
“I was married shortly after arriving at the ANU – and that was interesting in the context of Canberra at the time,” she says.
For someone who already had a high-powered job in leadership and who would go on to be a Fellow of the Institute of Company Directors, it seems an unusual decision, especially when she tells you that she actually went back to high school first.
It initially took two years for Cameron to get High School Certificate, and when she made the step up to tertiary education, she didn’t choose business or a directly vocational course.
“I felt that I was undereducated, not for my job, but for myself,” says Cameron, who attended ANU to study sociology, and also to dip her toe into medieval history.
Her choice to study those topics was in part pragmatic.
“A lot of it was because I was working full time and those classes were on when I could get there.”
Soon, however, the work-study-life balance became even more difficult when Cameron fell pregnant, and gave birth in 1988.
Then, three months after the birth of her daughter, Cameron was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
She initially struggled to keep all the balls in the air, but then decided to take a long break from study.
“That put paid to my degree for quite some time and I had to have time off for ‘bad behaviour’ really.”
It was well into the 1990s when she returned, finally fully recovered.
“I came back because I’m a very driven person.”
“I wanted to finish because I wanted to, and I still want to, do further study one day.”
“So I was absolutely determined to finish, so I sort of, limped over the line.”
“Intellectually, it was the best thing I ever did. It opened my eyes to be able to, well, think! I’m not saying that I couldn’t think before, but the generalist education pushed me forward.”
“What’s happened in my later life is that I’ve been invited onto boards that are doing quite profound projects, and I can make it work because I am a generalist – that’s what studying supposedly obscure topics gave me.”
“It was a lovely day, the day I graduated, and also special for my daughter to share the day with me. And it was in recent years, that I was able to return the favour, when she graduated from ANU as well.”
In 2011 Cameron was awarded an AM in the Order of Australia for service to children through the National SIDS Council of Australia, as a supporter of organisations assisting people with a disability, and to the community.