Outstanding Alumni Awards - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Outstanding Alumni Awards

Each year the Outstanding Alumni Awards program acknowledges and celebrates USC graduates who have achieved significantly in their field of expertise since graduating at least two years prior with their first degree, recognising them for the impact they have had at a local, national and sometimes international level.

Congratulations to the 2021 shortlisted nominees for their notable achievements to date. A special thank you goes to the people who took the time and effort to nominate them – fellow alumni, parents, children, lecturers, colleagues, friends - without their support, this initiative wouldn’t be possible.

The 2021 Outstanding Alumni Award recipients are…

Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award

Dr Shamala Thilarajah
Doctor of Philosophy 2019 

Dr Shamala Thilarajah is the current President of the Singapore National Stroke Association, World Stroke Organisation Future Leader (2020-2022), and Singapore Physiotherapy Association 2021 Outstanding Public Sector Physiotherapist award winner for her work building better rehabilitation systems for vulnerable populations who cannot afford expensive private healthcare. Shamala has been a physiotherapist since 2004 and is a Principal Physiotherapist at the 8th ranked hospital in the world, Singapore General Hospital. Shamala has a long history of volunteering to improve the lives of people with severe neurological conditions, for which she was awarded the Healthcare Humanity Award in 2020. Shamala regularly convenes neurorehabilitation education sessions for international audiences, with a focus on improving patients’ lives in developing countries. She also provides significant mentoring opportunities for her fellow clinicians and students both in Singapore and at USC, including our research honours students and Occupational Therapy undergraduate students.

Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award

Dr Michael Duggan
Doctor of Philosophy 2016

Utilising his doctoral studies in sustainability and human geography from USC’s Sustainability Research Centre, Dr Michael Duggan has been a Director of Deloitte, where he led sustainability services across Queensland and also played a leading role in the formation of a start-up waste to energy company. In 2019, Mike joined Orange Sky Australia as Chief Operating Officer – a national provider of laundry and shower services for the homeless. Mike has been pivotal in expanding Orange Sky’s Australian and New Zealand service delivery, embedding social impact measurement and decision-making into Orange Sky’s projects and leading them through the challenges of COVID-19. Under his leadership, Mike delivered the most volunteer shifts in its 7 years of operations, helping over 13,000 people in the last 12 months, with a goal to reach 40,000 people annually by 2025. Mike is the Founder and Director of ‘Fathers of Girls’, Australia’s only organisation, supporting fathers of only girls. He was the President and Treasurer of the Trail Running Association of Queensland for 2016-2020 and gives back to USC in his role as an Adjunct Research Fellow, presenting to staff and students on social impact leadership, and as an alumni mentor for students and fellow alumni.

Regional Achievement Award

Elise Jione
Graduate Certificate in Health Sector Leadership 2021,
Master of Business Administration 2019

Elise Jione is the General Manager of USC’s Thompson Institute and has played an integral role in the Thompson Institute’s growth to become one of Australia’s leading mental health research institutes. Elise developed and implemented the Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a community-based program committed to improving mental health outcomes on the Sunshine Coast that now has 125 member organisations. She also led a multi-disciplinary team to swiftly develop ‘EMERALD’, a wellbeing program in response to COVID-19. With over 200 participants to date, it has delivered clinically significant outcomes, with an average increase in wellbeing of 53%, average decrease in depression by 53% and average decrease in anxiety by 54%. In 2021, Elise received the Sunshine Coast Business Women’s Network ‘Young Business Woman of the Year’ award. Elise is a Board Director of Wandi Nerida, Australia’s first residential eating disorder facility and gives back to USC students and alumni as an alumni mentor.

Rising Star Award

Lyndsey Scott
Bachelor of Business (Tourism) 2007


Lyndsey Scott is the Group Human Resources Director for MJS Holding in Saudi Arabia, a global group bringing world-class dining to Saudi Arabia as the country brings to life its 2030 vision with a focus on a vibrant and energised society. Lyndsey is a passionate advocate for inclusion and diversity with a focus on women in the workplace and has achieved global recognition for innovation in her industry. During her 15 years’ experience in Human Resources, previous roles included Area Director of HR for Hyatt based in the Middle East and Director of HR at Grand Hyatt Melbourne, where colleague turnover rates dropped from 42% in 2015 to 28% in 2017 along with 80% of all leadership vacancies being filled by internal candidates. Lyndsey led the formation of the first Women@Hyatt Chapters, covering Hyatt Hotels in Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. She was also instrumental in helping Hyatt participate in programs by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre assessing Hyatt’s policies and procedures for their effectiveness in protecting the human rights of migrant workers in the hospitality sector in the UAE and Qatar. Lyndsey was a key participant in the International Labour Organisation-led Hospitality Working Group to reshape the culture of industry workplaces in the lead-up to FIFA 2022.

Rising Star Award

Dr Jennie Chandler
Doctor of Philosophy 2018

Dr Jennie Chandler obtained first-class honours from the University of Exeter in 2013 and moved to Australia to do her PhD at USC, publishing seven first-author papers. In 2017, Jennie secured a postdoctoral position at the prestigious University College of London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (UK), where her research focuses on novel treatments for childhood kidney failure. Within two years Jennie discovered a new cause of kidney disease in children. Part of an international collaborative project, her work lead to the identification and characterisation of a new mechanism acting in kidney damage, associated with defective RNA processing (known as pseudouridylation). Her work on this project led to a co-first authorship publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS; impact factor 11.21) and funding from Genome Editing Mice for Medicine (MRC Harwell Institute, 2018). Together this work will advance understanding of how RNA processing is implicated in human disease and how to best treat these patients. She has obtained her own funding to improve how therapeutics are delivered to the kidney and leads patient engagement and outreach for the Kidney Group at the Institute of Child Health. Jennie is a mentor with The Girls Network and sits on the NIHR TRC Junior Committee.

Jennifer Chandler

Past recipients 

Browse the past recipients of Outstanding Alumni Awards.

Nomination guidelines 

For more information on nominations, read the Nomination guidelines.

For any enquiries contact Anita Edmonds, Manager, Alumni Relations via Email alumni@usc.edu.au or Tel: +61 7 5459 4564.

Please note: the recipients' work details are current at the time of receiving their award.