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Elizabeth Coolican Dewhurst (Fr 2010) – 20 Years of Undergraduate Women

Liz became a fresher in 2010 and spent three years at College. She has gone on to pursue a career in education, has taught in a number of high schools in multiple towns, and now resides in Orange as the Head of Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) at James Sheahan Catholic High School. She discussed with us how she started dating her husband Thomas, a fellow Androvian, and how together they balance their careers, family and life more generally. She reflected on how she has seen College change for women over the last 12 years and how, in her experience, St Andrew’s fostered a supportive, social and sporty environment that still provides a basis for common connection years later.

Please tell us a bit more about yourself – where are you originally from and where did you grow up?

I grew up in Sydney with my parents and two older brothers. One of my brothers, Tom, went through Drew’s two years ahead of me. Not sure he was overly impressed when I joined him as a fresher in 2010.

What are some of your favourite memories from your time at college? 

Some of my best memories are pretty simple, playing 500 with friends in the corridors well into the night. All the sports and the camaraderie were great as well. Meeting my husband is also an obvious highlight!

How did you see the College change for women whilst you were there? And have you noticed any further changes since you left?

Definitely, a change in the energy and chat at sporting events, my first year of netball to my third were different, but for the better. I’ve also seen an increase in female representation in senior leadership among the students. It’s so great! A saying at my school was ‘Women in time will come to do much’ and I see that time is now and it’s exciting to have been a part of it at College and to be a part of it in education as a teacher.

Your husband Thomas Dewhurst is also a fellow Androvian. Is there a story behind how the two of you met at College?

Thomas and I were friends first, we had a big group of friends and in our second year we started going out and now we have two kids! We joked with Wayne when he came out to Orange recently that we were a part of the statistics he gives on your first day of O-Week: look around the room he said, your partner could be in here. Maybe a third or half of you will end up with someone in the college system. And Thomas and I have been together for 11 years.

While you were at College you were involved in Rosebowl Athletics, Basketball, Netball, Rowing, Softball and Tennis as well as being the Intercol Representative in 2012. What were the best parts about being so involved in College life? How did you manage to balance university with all of these extracurricular activities?

I love sports and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m competitive. A bit of nature but also nurture – growing up with two older brothers definitely shaped me. I also met so many people through sports, both at Drew’s and at other colleges. More recently I’ve run into people who I played sports against and that common connection is great.

As far as balance, College was an incredibly supportive environment. I felt like we knuckled down in the lead-up to exams to study and get things done. That was the bonus of being surrounded by highly motivated and academic people.

Since leaving College you have had several different teaching roles. Could you please describe your career path to date?

I’ve worked in Sydney, Cowra, Young, Melbourne and Orange across the public, Catholic and private systems in high schools. I’ve worked as a teacher, House Coordinator and Head of Department managing student well-being and curriculum in HSIE. My experiences across all sectors and in cities and regionally have been defining and have influenced what I want my students to get from me when they leave the classroom.

I think these experiences have also given me an understanding of the best parts of schools and the things that we can improve upon in order to prepare students for university life or working life. I’m lucky to be in a position to guide some of this in my current role, shaping the programs to be skills first, and content second. I believe the most important skills I can teach my students are written and verbal communication – essential skills they will need in the workforce, regardless of whether they are a bricklayer, a lawyer, a consultant or a manager. Hopefully, they have also gained a desire to be a lifelong learner.

You’ve also moved from Sydney to Orange! Can you share why you moved out to the country and what’s been challenging or beneficial about making the change?

We spent time in Sydney, Cowra and then Melbourne and were allowed to move regionally again. Orange felt like a great option for us as it’s about halfway between my parents in Sydney and my in-laws in Hermidale. It also has a large number of high schools and therefore lots of opportunities for me. Thomas works for John Deere and travels around NSW and interstate for work so being centrally located as well as having an airport was important to us.

Orange is also a great town, we are currently enjoying the Orange Wine Festival which showcases the delicious wine and food in the region. Pretty hard to beat! Like any move though, it is challenging to uproot your family but all of our moves have provided us with great friends, opportunities and experiences learning from different people and systems. We hope to call Orange home for a while though as we’ve moved three times in two years and the kids are settled in daycare and we are happy in our jobs.

How do you and Thomas balance your careers with family and life outside of work?

It is a big challenge with both of us working full time, having the kids in daycare full time and wanting to be good parents and good employees. Luckily we make a good team and aim to have a fairly flexible schedule. We work hard to put phones away when we are with the kids and focus on them. Right now I’m just glad rugby season is over, we are getting our Saturdays back!

Do you have any advice for young Androvians that are considering education as a career path?

It is highly rewarding, like most industries it has its challenges but making a difference in someone’s life is satisfying. I think most Androvians will be able to identify a teacher in their lives who was particularly impactful and the ability (or hope) that you can be that for someone else is an incredible thought.

What are you reading/ watching or listening to at the moment that you’d recommend?

I often read two things at once and at this point in time, one of those is Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly and funnily enough, I am reading Love & Virtue by Diana Reid. Which is obviously quite interesting, a friend from Wesley lent it to me and we’ve been discussing it regularly. Watching Bluey…and listening to Maggie Dent.

Is there anything else we should be asking you?

No, it is a privilege to be asked to contribute, College has obviously defined a large part of my life and I am so grateful for the opportunities I was given.

St Andrew’s College is celebrating 20 Years of Undergraduate Women in 2022. To mark this important milestone, we have created a range of commemorative merchandise for our community. All proceeds from the sale of these custom-made, special edition items will go towards funding the new scholarship for undergraduate women, established in 2022 to support women with financial need to attend St Andrew’s College. Take a look at the full range here.