Making a difference: We're here for the students

Published: Wednesday 13th April 2016

Equity Pathways Officer Cara Vanzini often sees a major change in cautious high school students after they visit ACU, and considered for the first time a life at university. "If a student arrives for an Aspirations Day program and tells me they want to be on the dole after school but leave saying 'I want to be a nurse' then I know I am doing my job," she said.

Cara shares more of her ACU story and explains how she makes a difference.

"I grew up in a small community in country Victoria and I think because I experienced fewer opportunities in this rural area, I developed a passion for assisting students with their career aspirations.

I commenced my role as Equity Pathways Officer at the Ballarat Campus in January 2013 and as the position was new to this campus, I was required to develop the position and the programs we offer.

It seemed somewhat daunting at first, and in some ways still can be due to being the only Equity Pathways officer on campus, but it has become much easier by the collaboration we have as a national team and the support of staff and students on this campus.

While we work under the same suite of ACUgate programs, each campus operates differently because of the varied education systems in each state. My work is enriched by professional and faculty staff who support the programs offered at ACU Ballarat and surrounding partner areas.

Equity Pathways develops partnerships with low socio-economic status schools and disadvantaged communities to increase student awareness, raise aspirations and access to university. It achieves this through conducting educationally based programs, such as ACUgate, with partner schools to engage and enhance student’s educational experiences.

Making dreams come true: Through Equity Pathways ACU invites high school students from low socio-economic status schools to come to our campuses and experience university life.

"Quite frankly, I love my work. It is very fulfilling welcoming student groups from partner schools to our beautiful campus to show the opportunities available to them in higher education and introducing how they can access these opportunities.

Outside of work I lead a very busy life with a beautiful little boy and my partner who teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu around his full time job, but between us we make it work.

I think a busy lifestyle is easier to manage if you enjoy the work you do and see the importance of your role. The Equity Pathways team believes it is important to make contributions in other areas of the university where possible, so this has allowed me to involve myself in other university activities, such as coaching the ACU Mixed Netball Team to medals in the Southern and Australian University Games last year.

I have heard it mentioned quite a lot on our campus and it will always resonate with me, “We are here for the students,” and I feel the best way to do that is get in there and get involved."