ANN YARDLEY had strong motivation for enrolling in the first cohort of students at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 1996: her four-year-old daughter Shari. Ms Yardley had grown up in Mount Druitt, a low socioeconomic suburb of Sydney. She had become a single mother at 19, not long after finishing high school. But she was determined that tenacity and opportunity would trump her circumstances.
“I knew I wanted more. I moved up to the Coast from ‘Struggle Street’ to give Shari a better life,” she said. Ms Yardley was referencing a controversial television documentary on her hometown that aired in 2015 – the same year that the USC business graduate was named by the Australian Government as the best in the country in her field. When she stood on stage in Sydney to accept the national award of ICT Professional of the Year across all levels of government, Ms Yardley was about 30 kilometres – or a million miles – from her old stamping ground in the western suburbs.
USC helped Ms Yardley fulfil more than a career dream. A cherished mother-and-daughter photograph taken on campus at Sippy Downs in April 2014 revealed the personal joy: Ms Yardley returning to a graduation ceremony to see her daughter receive her Bachelor of Nursing Science.
As Shari Smith shook the hand of Chancellor John Dobson, it mirrored 15 years earlier when Ms Yardley received her Business (Information Systems) degree from then Chancellor Ian Kennedy at USC’s first ever graduation in 1999. “I always loved school and wanted to get a degree, and I wanted to support Shari through hers,” Ms Yardley recalled. “We have very different career paths and we both love what we do. She’s already worked as a theatre nurse at a hospital and I’m now involved in digital and smart technology projects – in my opinion, it’s the most exciting and challenging time in ICT since I started.”