Griffith's growing footprint

Master of Public Health

After four years of post-graduate study at Griffith, Chanel Dunn’s graduation day was the first time she met her peers and teachers in person.

No, she wasn’t an exceptionally gifted student that gained immediate credit and surpassed all expectations. She was one of a growing number of Griffith Digital Campus students who completed her degree online and from interstate.

Motivated by collective change

An established Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Ms Dunn had already built her career around helping children with multiple and complex disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy and Autism.However, she believed a postgraduate degree would expand her career options and open new doors of opportunity to work with a collective group of professional to create change and positive outcomes.

“As a therapist and clinician, the idea of working beyond the one-on-one model and at a more population level is really exciting,” Chanel said.

“Working with a group of professionals to enact change and positive health outcomes is my key interest in public health.”

Having previously completed a double degree at La Trobe University, the responsibilities and commitment required to undertake tertiary education was not foreign to Chanel. However, the complexities of juggling full-time work, family commitments and financial responsibilities in addition to university study was, which led her to the new world of online education.

“I quickly realised that if I was going to take this step, I needed a University that was going to offer me flexibility to do it my way. That’s where Griffith, a University over 17000kms away, came into consideration,” she said.

“Most local Victorian universities did not offer the flexibility I needed so I chose Griffith as they uniquely offered the Master of Public Health online, in addition to the ability to tailor the course to suit my career goals. It was exactly what I was looking for.”

The online student experience

Completing her Master of Public Health entirely online from her Victorian home, Chanel’s postgraduate study journey was not unlike that of an on-campus student. Viewing lectures, participating in tutorials, borrowing books from the library and submitting assignments, was standard practise. However, the way she did so was an experience shared uniquely by Griffith’s virtual student community.

“It’s a new larger world, this virtual university community and it’s wonderful!” she said.

“All the teaching staff were great and were always available by email, sometimes even phone or Skype. IT were also very helpful, although admiringly, I needed them very little during my studies.”

Geographic and timeframe flexibility

Despite a few deviations in her study path, Chanel was a diligent, committed and forward-thinking student, who innovatively adapted her online learning model and applied it to community-based health projects during her studies.

Chanel sought her own opportunities to apply her learnings and whilst completing her studies, enjoyed working with ‘Umbo’ to deliver online therapy to people with disabilities in rural and remote areas.

She was also recognised for her outstanding academic performance, receiving the Griffith Award for Academic Excellence in 2018 shortly before graduating.

“It took longer than expected for me to graduate. Life gets in the way like the lows of deaths in the family and the highs of pregnancy, new life and new responsibilities,” she said.

“Not physically being on campus means you could forget about an assignment or piece of coursework, as you don’t have daily reminders. On the other hand, it gave me complete flexibility to study before and after work and then whenever my baby was sleeping.

“I was always able to recommit to my study and keep going with what I started.”

The future of public health

Travelling to Queensland to meet her lecturers and peers in person and deliver the student address at her graduation ceremony, was the perfect conclusion to her study journey.

Thankful to Griffith for the opportunity and proud to represent the online student body, Chanel provided some departing inspiration for graduates, current students and alumni.

“The future of health is exciting. I hope it will be an environment where you can work remotely but stay fully connected. I hope you will adapt a global focus, even if it’s from your own back yard,” she said.

Looking to the future, Chanel is intrigued what it holds.

“I’m not sure where I’ll be in five years’ time, but I also think that’s the beauty of public health – it’s so diverse,” she said.

“I may work for local or state Government or have found a way to marry my therapy expertise with population or health project work. Regardless, I hope that I will be making a difference.”

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