Meet St Catherine’s Old Girls’ Fellows
When Chrissy Ryan became president of the St Catherine’s Old Girls’ Association (SCOGA), she was keen to introduce an initiative that would recognise excellence within the Old Girls community. The association has a 7500-strong membership and Ryan says many of those members are working and making valuable contributions to society.
So, in 2018, the St Catherine’s Old Girls’ Association Fellowship was launched. It offers up to $5000 towards further study or to support the recipient to continue their professional development and help the broader community. “We wanted the person to be committed to professional learning and continuous improvement within themselves. And we were very keen that the person was aligned with St Catherine’s values and motto,” says Ryan. “The motto – ‘Nil magnum nisi bonum’ or ‘nothing is great unless it is good’ – is drummed into us as students of the school. So are the school values of integrity, curiosity, perseverance and empathy. We wanted the recipients of the fellowship to demonstrate these values.”
The SCOGA judging panel found it hard to choose between two outstanding applicants and so awarded two fellowships in 2018 to Alexandra Chung and Jessica Martin. Chung graduated from St Catherine’s in 2001, completed a bachelor of nutrition and dietetics at Monash University and worked as a dietitian in community health. She is a PhD candidate writing a thesis on how to reduce socio-economic inequities in childhood obesity. “Instead of saying ‘you must eat more fruit and vegetables’, my work is looking at how we can make the environment we live in more conducive to a healthier diet,” says Chung. “As a parent of two young children I see how difficult it can be to make healthy choices. You walk through the supermarket and face a barrage of unhealthy food. So how can we advocate for regulatory approaches to improve childhood obesity, like restricting junk food advertising targeted to children or applying regulations to restrict the unhealthy food sponsorship of children’s sport?” Chung was thrilled to win the SCOGA Fellowship and used her prize to attend the Food Governance Conference at the University of Sydney. “The conference brought together key leaders in the field, so it was a great opportunity to engage with those people, to present some of my research and to be inspired by the cutting- edge work happening in food regulation and food policy,” says Chung. ” I was fortunate to have an education at St Catherine’s and I’m very proud to be a Fellow.”
Jessica Martin graduated from St Catherine’s in 2013 and then studied a bachelor of vision science and a master of optometry at Deakin University. She began her career in optometry in Yarrawonga and Tasmania before recently moving back to her hometown of Mansfield where Martin now has her own optometry business.“I enjoy working in rural and regional health because there is a lot of shared care between local GPs and allied health services,” she says. To further her experience of the challenges of working in more remote health locations, Martin used her fellowship funding to travel to Sri Lanka for a week. She was part of a charity project providing free eye health care to villagers in a remote part of the country. “I wanted to volunteer to see rural healthcare in a developing world and to add quality to peoples’ lives. We opened our services to any villagers who wanted our help and one morning we had 600 people waiting at the gate before 8am,” says Martin. “I did a lot of refracting or measuring people for prescription glasses and we had also fundraised to pay for glasses and were able to give those to people. I’m hoping to return next year and to get more equipment so we can treat eye diseases like glaucoma. I couldn’t have had this experience without St Catherine’s and the fellowship.”