I grew up in a town called Racine, Wisconsin, about an hour south of Milwaukee, a city some people might know as the home of the 70s TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley. It’s right on Lake Michigan and in winter it’s so bitterly cold the inside of your nose freezes. I went to university close to home and did a Bachelor of Arts majoring in music performance and political science, two very different things. I was also very involved in non-profit work in youth empowerment, youth engagement and environmental sustainability
I applied to study at UNSW on a whim. I realised I needed to push myself to do something different, otherwise it was going to be very safe and comfortable to stay in Racine. The combination of international law and international relations was something I was particularly interested in, and UNSW was one of two universities in the world that offered it. Within a few months I was on a plane. It was totally not my personality. I had never set foot on campus. I did all the things I would never advise any student to do, which was just blindly apply and see what happens.
I never thought I would stay in Australia. I was doing a year-long masters’ program and thinking about doing a PhD back in the US. With a month left I took a group of students on a study tour to Iceland, and I was writing my final paper all through the night while the sun never set. Sydney was warm and it’s where I met my husband. At that point I had two months left on my student visa and I realised I wanted to try to figure out a way to stay.
Future Students was kind of a strange but logical connection with what I had done all through high school, and through university – going out, talking to young people and engaging them in the opportunities available to them. I really do love that there is so much variety in what we do – hosting an event for 500 people or going out and speaking to a group of year 12 students, or talking to careers advisers, or creating publications, web and digital campaigns. That’s what makes my job exciting.
With prospective students it’s about talking about what matters to them. One of the things we emphasise is to come to campus, whether as part of a school group or tour, or on Open Day. Setting foot on campus can provide that lightbulb moment – “Oh, this is what university is like, and it feels like the right place for me.”