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12 December 2019
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26 February 2019
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20 August 2018
Second Edition 2018
13 November 2017
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Griffith Magazine

Griffith celebrates inaugural Alumni Awards


Second Edition August 2018

Griffith will pay tribute to its remarkable roll-call of alumni in September with the inaugural Outstanding Alumni Awards showcasing individual career excellence and achievement.

The response to the call for nominations was itself outstanding, demonstrating the depth and breadth of the amazing things Griffith alumni are doing to take their place and make a difference in the world.

Group winners will be recognised and overall University Award winners will be announced at the Griffith University Outstanding Alumni Dinner in September.

2018 Alumni finalists

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award

Recognising alumni who are under 40 years of age with at least four years’ work experience since their first Griffith University degree, who demonstrate professional success and contribute to the community. 

Ajitha Naidu Sugnanam (Health Group winner 2018)
B Oral Health in Dental Science ‘08
Grad Diploma of Dentistry ‘10

On graduating from Griffith, Ajitha joined the Royal Australian Air Force, where she currently serves as Squadron Leader (one of only a handful of dentists Australia-wide who hold this position). She strives daily for excellence in her chosen profession of dentistry, but also instigates and self-funds humanitarian work that changes people’s lives nationally and internationally.

From 2011-2013, she volunteered in Vietnam, India and Cambodia, where, in conjunction with NGOs, she assessed and treated hundreds of children. She generously passes on her dental knowledge in various teaching capacities, including a humanitarian mission to Nepal in 2014, where she taught dental procedures to medical interns. In addition, she returns to India annually on self-funded expeditions, to continue to maximise exposure in remote areas of India to basic healthcare.

Caitlin Pearson (Griffith Business School winner 2018)
B Business ‘10

Initially employed in the position of Junior Events Officer, Caitlin is now General Manager of Marketing & Engagement at Macarthur Disability Services, a not-for-profit organisation that supports more than 1000 people with a disability and/or mental health issues, plus their carers and families. In 2017, Caitlin was awarded Not-For-Profit Executive of the Year at The CEO Magazine’s Australian Executive of the Year Awards.

In addition to her paid work, Caitlin holds a number of voluntary management positions in the Chamber of Commerce and on charity boards in not-for-profit fields outside of the disability sector. Caitlin also sits on the Disability Advisory Committee for her local council, where she provides advice and recommendations to staff on how to make the city more accessible and inclusive for people with a disability.

Dean Clifford-Jones (Arts, Education and Law Group winner 2018)
B Laws with Honours ‘08
B Arts in Politics & Government ‘08
Grad Diploma in Legal Practice ‘09

The first person in his family to attend or obtain university qualifications, Dean became a Judge’s Associate one year after graduation. Since then, he has achieved remarkable success in the legal profession as a Crown Prosecutor and later as a senior child protection lawyer. He is currently a Principal Lawyer at the office of the Director of Child Protection Litigation.

Outside of paid employment, Dean has always volunteered his time to the community, most notably founding Australia’s first LGBTIQ+ legal networking association, Pride in Law, to bring together the LGBTIQ+ legal profession across multiple disciplines. In addition to monthly meetings, Pride in Law shares LGBTIQ+ news with its growing membership with the aim of educating the community with both positive and informative bulletins in Australia and around the world.

Dr Jessie Christiansen (Science Group winner 2018)
B Science with advanced studies ‘03

Jessie is a NASA astronomer and, in her role as a staff scientist at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, spends her days looking for planets. She has published discoveries of half-a-dozen exoplanets (planets around other stars) and been a co-author on discoveries of thousands more. Jessie is increasingly involved at the planning and management level of NASA missions, and sits on several advisory bodies and executive committees.

She is an active mentor and educator, always seeking opportunities to foster women and underrepresented minorities in the natural sciences, the faculty advisor for the Caltech Women in Physics, Maths and Astronomy (WiPMA) society, and a group leader in Caltech’s Women Mentoring Women program.

Outstanding International Alumnus Award

Recognising alumni who were enrolled as an international student, achieved at least 40 Credit Points of study in Griffith courses, and subsequently have at least five years’ work experience since their first Griffith University degree. These alumni also demonstrate professional success and contribute to the community.

Petr Tichý (Arts, Education and Law Group winner 2018)
B Digital Media Production ‘04
M Arts in Film and Television Studies ‘05

Petr started out as a television journalist, then as a video and multimedia specialist at Microsoft. He has extensive international experience in film and television production, and has worked in video and multimedia production for many years.

Petr is CEO and Chairman of the Board of Barrandov Studios in Prague, one of the biggest and oldest film studios in Europe, with 160 employees. The studios’ primary objective is to ensure the presence of all film-related fields and services in one convenient location. Through their work, Petr and his team have re-established film and TV incentives in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is now rebuilding its reputation as a prime destination for Hollywood and other international film and TV productions, which contributed some 5 billion crowns to the Czech Republic last year, the highest amount in nearly a decade.

Professor Qiyong Liu (Science Group winner 2018)
M Science in Public Health ‘06
PhD ‘14

Professor Qiyong Liu is a public health specialist in communicable disease prevention and control in China. He is internationally renowned for his research addressing climate change and health, having devoted 30 years to combating health threats to poor, vulnerable communities. In his position as a chief scientist and research leader, he has produced a large volume of world-class, influential works. Liu has built a formidable research team to tackle a range of public health threats confronting China and the Asia-Pacific region, such as air pollution and urban systems, and emerging zoonotic diseases.

He actively collaborates with Griffith colleagues on research, joint publications and international forums, and is an outstanding role model for the public health profession, and for the Griffith University community of scholars.

Shirley (Poh Ching) Tay (Health Group winner 2018)
B Nursing ‘06

Shirley Tay is the Director of Nursing at Mount Alvernia Hospital in Singapore, where she is part of the hospital’s Executive Team tasked to support its mission to build affordable and safe healthcare for the people of Singapore, and where she looks after the underprivileged in Singaporean society through the hospital’s outreach programs.

With 38 years of nursing experience across medical clinics, private and restructured government hospitals, Shirley’s history covers areas such as Joint Commission International Standards, Clinical Quality, Clinical Informatics, Healthcare Management, Operating Theatres, and Ambulatory Services. With her exceptional strength in leadership, team building, collaborative partnerships and systemic reviews for work processes improvement, she has built strong teams and promoted positive change across departments.

Thanuj De Alwis Goonewardena (Griffith Business School winner 2018)
B Hotel Management ‘98

Thanuj has contributed extensively to better standards in the tourism industry of Sri Lanka through his knowledge and abilities in hospitality, planning, designing, construction, and launching and managing hotels and resorts across the country. As well as developing his family’s small hotel into a mega-city hotel, he has launched two theme hotels, 15 bespoke boutique hotels, one hotel school, two elementary schools, restored a 1846 colonial racecourse, and styled homes, galleries and offices. These achievements earned him the Presidential Award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2009 in the Hotel Sector, among many other honours.

In addition to his business success, Thanuj volunteers his services to non-profit organisations, serving in humanitarian projects on poverty alleviation, rehabilitation, sanitation, sustainable livelihood and tsunami (Emergency response).

Outstanding First Peoples Alumnus Award

Recognising alumni who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage with at least five years’ work experience since their first Griffith University degree. These alumni also demonstrate professional success and contribute to the community.  

Clinton Schultz (Health Group winner 2018)
B Psychological Science ‘07
B Psychological Science with Honours ‘08

One of fewer than 20 male Aboriginal Registered Psychologists nationally, and a strong Gamilaroi man, Clinton Schultz founded Marumali Consultations to provide culturally responsive wellbeing support services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. He consults around organisational cultural responsiveness and, on the Queensland Child Deaths Case Review Panel, he provides key guidance on supporting Indigenous children.

In 2016, Clinton founded ‘Clinto’s Kupmurri’ food van to provide education about healthy, native-focused foods and assist in creating understanding and appreciation of culture, wellness and nutrition. He also created ‘Sobah’, Australia’s first non-alcoholic, Aboriginal-owned craft beers, and the aligned social venture, ‘Sobah Initiative’, to provide funding and rehabilitation programs that are culturally responsive and founded on Indigenous principles of holistic wellbeing. 

Darren Smith (Science Group winner 2018)
B Science ‘96
M Science in Clinical Physiology ‘99

Darren has been a respiratory scientist for over 20 years, and is currently a Senior Respiratory Scientist at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. Darren has been responsible for the clinical supervision of 43 students on clinical placement from various universities, and has acted as a mentor and guide for many of these students.

Darren has a keen interest in Indigenous Health, due to his Indigenous heritage on his mother’s side (Jagera), and has acted as a Respiratory Scientist for Indigenous Respiratory clinics in Cherbourg, Torres Strait, Caloundra, Gympie and Palm Island. Darren has also provided spirometry training to Indigenous healthcare workers in Charleville, Nambour, Toowoomba, Katherine, Jabiru, Darwin, Torres Strait and Cleveland for Stradbroke Island workers. 

Delvene Cockatoo-Collins (Griffith Business School winner 2018)
B Leisure Management ‘96

A renowned First Peoples artist, Delvene is a proud Nunukul, Ngugi and Goenpul woman from the Quandamooka region of south-east Queensland. As an artist and Indigenous advocate, Delvene is committed to telling, preserving and continuing the story of culture and country. She earned international recognition after designing the gold, silver and bronze medals presented to athletes at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

In 2012, she established a Minjerribah-based youth arts group that has performed at festivals including Island Vibe, Stylin’ Up and Pacific Tides. She continues to draw artistic inspiration from the stories handed down to her, related to family, culture, history and the land. She translates these narratives through her own contemporary interpretations. She is both a storyteller and a story gatherer, and a keeper of her culture.

Donisha Duff (Arts, Education and Law Group winner 2018)
B Arts in Humanities ‘98
B Arts with Honours ‘99

Through her career, ministerial advisory and board appointments, Donisha has worked tirelessly to improve the pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as an advocate for health and a supporter of girls’ and women’s educational and career opportunities. She is Deputy Chairperson of the Stars Foundation, a not-for-profit providing school-based engagement programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and women, across 12 schools with nearly 1500 girls on the program. 

She has held senior roles in government, not-for-profit and as Advisor to the Minister for Indigenous Health, where she has contributed her knowledge, skills and networks to increase access, collaboration and partnerships. Locally, she is General Manager for the Deadly Choices preventative health brand for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

Outstanding Alumnus Award*

Celebrating remarkable alumni with more than five years’ work experience since their first Griffith University degree, who demonstrate sustained professional success and substantial contribution to the community.

Professor Alan Cowman (Science Group winner 2018)
B Science ‘79
B Science with Honours ‘80

Professor Cowman, FRS FAA, is one of the world’s foremost scientists in the field of malaria research; his work involves exploring the molecular mechanisms of the malaria parasite life cycle. He has published more than 260 refereed papers in top journals, and has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences (2001), and a Fellow of the Royal Society (London) in 2011.

Professor Cowman is currently Head of the Division of Infection and Immunity, and Deputy Director, at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and a Senior Principal Research Fellow, Professorial Fellow (University of Melbourne) and a Visiting Professor (Harvard University). He has been/still is Chairperson, Joint Chair or Member of numerous national and international committees. In his leadership role as Head of Division, he has played a major role in the nurturing of scientists to move on to leadership positions, and has mentored 16 PhD students and 33 Post-doctoral Fellows over about 18 years. 

Amanda Hodges (Griffith Business School winner 2018)
G Diploma Korean Language ‘94
B International Business ‘94

Amanda is an international strategic business, investment and government affairs executive leader with more than 20 years’ distinguished service in senior leadership and diplomatic roles. She was Regional Manager, Consul-General and Senior Trade & Investment Commissioner in Atlanta and, while there – as well as managing significant trade deals for Australian exporters – Amanda successfully led the Australian Government’s crisis response to Hurricane Katrina.  

Currently Minister Counsellor (Commercial) & Senior Trade & Investment Commissioner, Korea & Mongolia, Amanda is a strong supporter of Griffith faculty and students in South Korea, finding high-quality placements for Global Mobility Business Internship students in Seoul, mentoring students, and facilitating high-level country briefing sessions for them and visiting faculty members.

Barry Thomas (Griffith Business School winner 2017)
B Commerce ‘94

Barry is Vice-President of Cook Incorporated and Director of Cook Medical Asia Pacific. He has more than two decades of international leadership and expertise in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, fostering partnerships with academic institutions, physicians and researchers to find new medical devices and related technologies and solutions to some of the key clinical and health challenges facing the Asia-Pacific healthcare systems.

At Cook Medical, Barry created the Young Leaders Program, empowering a new generation of employees. He is recognised as a valued commentator on innovation, the Australian healthcare system and healthcare reforms specific to medical devices, issues surrounding Asia-Pacific healthcare industry growth, the China-Australia business relationship, the impact of the Global Financial Crisis on industry, and benefits of a robust healthcare system.

Gabrielle Quilliam (Health Group winner 2018)
B Nursing ‘95

Gabrielle Quilliam is an international thought leader in paediatric palliative care and, with her husband, she co-founded the only children’s hospice in Queensland, Hummingbird House. She is a certified midwife, and has worked both locally and overseas. Overseas, she worked for a humanitarian NGO (Medair) as part of a mobile medical response team in South Sudan and Angola. Back in Brisbane, she continued midwifery for a while, and then went on to becoming a foster parent caring for complex-needs children.

She is a Non-Executive Director of Health Consumers Queensland, and a Non-Executive Director of international charity Butterfly Children’s Hospice. Gabrielle has received a Premier’s Award for her community service and was 2017 Queensland state finalist for the Australian of the Year Awards.

Dr Jay Gambetta  (Science Group winner 2017)
B Science with Honours ‘00
B Science in Laser Sciences ‘99
PhD ‘04

Jay Gambetta is one of the world’s foremost researchers in practical quantum computing, co-leading the team at IBM that is working on delivering a world-first large-scale quantum computer. He was a driving force behind the creation of the “IBM Quantum Experience”, the world-first cloud quantum computer. Jay is an IBM Fellow, the highest honour that can be achieved by a scientist, engineer or programmer at the company.

Jay has more than 90 publications with more than 12,000 Google-Scholar (GS) citations. He has published several times in Nature and Science, and many times in Nature Physics and other high-impact journals, and he holds dozens of patents. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) at the age of only 35, and Vice-Chair of the Quantum Information Division of the APS this year.

Katarina Carroll APM (Arts, Education and Law Group winner 2018)
B Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice ‘96
Executive Master of Public Administration ‘13

In 2015, Katarina Carroll became Australia’s first female fire commissioner. As Commissioner of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, she is responsible for all firefighting, rescue, HAZMAT and disaster management operations within Queensland. Her early work centred on detective work in a policing career of more than 32 years, and in 2014 she led Queensland’s security efforts at the Brisbane G20 Leaders meeting.

Throughout her career, she has been a trailblazing role model for women in the male-dominated police and fire services. At the time of her appointment to Commissioner, the organisation faced considerable turmoil. Her efforts to overcome this have been considerable and, in 2015, she won the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year award in the Government and Academia category, which recognised her contribution to improving public safety in Queensland.

Professor Paul Simshauser (Griffith Business School winner 2016)
B Commerce ‘93
M Commerce in Accounting and Finance ‘98

Paul Simshauser is a leading energy industry figure whose expertise is recognised by numerous professional and industry bodies. Today, Paul is the Chief Economist and Head of Corporate Development with Infigen Energy, but he commenced his career as a Cadet with the Queensland Electricity Commission in 1991. Since then, he has held C-suite roles in a number of energy companies, and has been Director-General of the Queensland Government’s Department of Energy and Water Supply

As Director-General, Paul was the Ministerial Government Champion for the Lockhart community, working to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through fundraising activities that supported the Puuya Foundation, who play a vital role in the community of Lockhart River. In addition, he has raised significant funds to support student scholarships and prizes at Griffith University.

Professor Phillip Di Bella (Griffith Business School winner 2011)
B Commerce ‘97

Professor Phillip Di Bella’s passion and entrepreneurial spirit led him to start up Di Bella Coffee when he identified a gap in the coffee market. The business grew from a start-up to the largest of its kind in Australia before he sold it 12 years later. He is currently Consultant for Strategic Sales and Development at Retail Food Group, Vice-President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce Brisbane, and Chairman of Di Bella Group.

Phillip’s entrepreneurship has received numerous accolades and in 2010, he became the world’s youngest recipient of an Italian knighthood for contribution to the Italian community. He contributes to, and is involved with, numerous charitable organisations, most notably the Pyjama Foundation, where he organises a recreational camp for children and carers of disadvantaged children in the local community.

*In this category, previous year’s winners from Academic Group awards were able to be put forward.