Pat Hallett never imagined she would graduate from university. Growing up in London, Pat left school at the age of 15 with a Certificate in Office Practice and an Advanced Certificate in Ice Skating.
A career working as a secretary at a number of American banks in the Strand followed. After this came a trip around the world, a move to Perth and 15 years working as the Executive Assistant to the Managing Director at one of Australia’s largest banks.
But it was taking her Year 12 daughter to a university information session that would start one of the biggest changes in Pat’s life. Hearing an announcement for a mature-age information session, she began to pay attention.
“I started investigating what courses were available and decided it was time to continue my education,” she says.
Before long, Pat had passed the STAT (Special Tertiary Admissions Test), taken a year off work and enrolled at UWA.
During her second year of study, Pat found herself both studying and working at UWA - becoming Executive Assistant to the Director of Campus Management.
“My workplace was supportive and encouraging of my studies. My boss would say to me: ‘Don’t worry, Pat. If you’re not at your desk, I know you’re probably at a lecture or a tutorial and you will be coming back,’” she says.
“I certainly burnt the midnight oil on occasions and sacrificed many weekend hours keeping up with the large reading load. Oral presentations were particularly nerve-wracking.”
Pat embraced university life – completing majors in History and English and Cultural Studies, utilising UWA’s Mature-Age Access Program and UniSkills sessions, and spending three years on the committee of UWA’s Mature-Age Students’ Association.
“It was a unique opportunity to be both a UWA student and a staff member. My student card also came in handy with discounts on coffee at Guild cafes and at the movies,” she says.
“I would encourage any staff member contemplating returning to study to go for it. Take advantage of the opportunities on our door step. Otherwise, it’s like working in a lolly shop and not eating any lollies!”
After seven and a half years of part-time study, Pat graduated with a Bachelor of Arts last month. Does she feel different?
“Yes. The experience has enriched my life in so many ways. The satisfaction I felt each time I submitted an assignment was worth all the effort. However, I still tend to read or write everything as though I’ll be tested on it,” she laughs.
“I hope I never stop learning. Right now, I’m taking a break and enjoying more time for swimming and other activities, but I’ve already looked at the Honours prospectus!”