A passion for learning and a commitment to improving education inspired Alice Herbert to pursue a Master of Education, majoring in Sustainability. She had explored her postgraduate study options and was drawn to the Sustainability major due to its relevance.
“I looked at other majors but Sustainability was unique to JCU and appealed to me immediately,” she says. “Given the area in which we live, learning about how to preserve the reef and the rainforest is so important to our younger generations coming through our schools.”
The Sustainability major develops skills and knowledge so graduates can communicate and innovate sustainability education programs in formal and informal education. With smaller class sizes and easy access to lecturers, Alice’s passion for learning flourished and she has developed a particular interest in social sustainability.
“The fact that as individuals, we’re spread across countries around the world and come together in communities, whether that is at the same shopping centre or because we have similar values, interests me,” she says. “As a high school teacher, learning about sustainable societies is particularly important because our kids are dealing with increased mental health problems and developing a new sense of what it means to be part of a community. They need to understand that we have to look after each other and ourselves as well as looking after the environment.”
After graduating with her Bachelor degree, Alice worked as a high school teacher and studied one semester of a Master of Educational Studies, majoring in Guidance and Counselling, at another university.
“I did six months, some of which was practical and wasn’t well-suited to me,” she says. “I took the emotional experiences of the people I was counselling more on board than I should have but it ended up assisting my social sustainability studies.”
Determined to pursue her passion for education, Alice enrolled in the Master of Education course at JCU. She will graduate after submitting her dissertation, which explores the rhetoric reality gaps that exists in schools attempting to support student engagement and wellbeing.
“As a teacher, I experience this gap in education every day,” she says. “Doing a dissertation offers a lot of flexibility. You can create your own avenues for research and develop areas of study that are relevant to you as an individual. Then, if you choose to, there are opportunities to expand on your research through a PhD.”
Alice has juggled work with university throughout her postgraduate studies. At one stage, she was working full-time as well as studying full-time. While the Master of Education course requires more commitment due to the depth of study, Alice says it also offers more flexibility in managing when to study.
“I dropped down to studying part-time and have swapped between focusing on university and work,” she says. “I will finish at the end of next semester. It’s been a long process but I’ve enjoyed it.”
With the support of her lecturers and the benefit of smaller classes, she has excelled during her postgraduate studies. The education journey might not yet be over for Alice, who has not ruled out doing a PhD after she graduates at the end of the year.
“I have great access to my lecturers, which has helped greatly,” she says. “They have always been available. I enjoy studying at a much smaller university. I have studied at other larger universities but at a smaller university like JCU, you are not just a number. That holistic sense of education is something I really valued while being at JCU.”