"I took my master purely for the piece of paper. Turns out, I loved it." | The Lighthouse

"I took my master purely for the piece of paper. Turns out, I loved it."

As told to Kate Symons


University studies got off to a rocky start for Dr Shani Hartley. Three decades later, she is the recipient of six university degrees – five from Macquarie - and thrives on her insatiable appetite for learning.

"I came to university because I wanted to be a yuppie - to have the big house, flash car and all that comes along with it.

At least, that was the original goal. I graduated high school in Wagga Wagga and came straight to Sydney. I flatted with an “old” (at least, that’s what I thought at the time) 55 year-old woman and drove my little yellow Leyland Mini everywhere. It was not a particularly reliable car, but it got the job done.

Shani Hartley Humans of MQ has received five degrees from Macquarie University

Lifelong learner: Dr Shani Hartley pushed through many moments when she was tempted to quit studying, to go on and achieve five qualifications from Macquarie University.

I wanted to study a Bachelor of Economics, as it was known then, but I didn’t get the marks. So I started a Bachelor of Arts and soon transferred to a Bachelor of Commerce. I was studying part-time and working full-time as an accountant.

I was a bit arrogant when I arrived. I would complete my exams halfway through the allocated time and leave to meet a friend in the city for lunch. I got away with it a couple of times, but the third time I tried it, I barely passed. I promised myself I would take university more seriously from that moment on.

I got a bit jaded with making rich people richer and I started to reassess my career path.

I did start taking it more seriously, but I was soon distracted by another external source. I met my future husband. I did graduate from the Bachelor of Commerce – barely – and I was an accountant up until I had kids.

I got a bit jaded with making rich people richer and I started to reassess my career path. I was with a bunch of friends one day and mentioned that I was weighing up being a teacher or a real estate agent. One of them said: ‘I would respect you more as a teacher’ and that was it, that comment pushed me towards education.

Since then, I have completed a Graduate Diploma in Education, a Master of Education, a Master of Research and a PhD in Educational Studies – all with Macquarie. I have also completed a Master of Arts at Deakin University. That one was just for fun.

To be completely honest, I took on the first master at Macquarie purely for the piece of paper. Turns out, I absolutely loved it – every single minute of it. I was hooked on learning.

I would say the most crucial lesson I learned throughout my time at Macquarie was persistence. There were so many times, particularly during my PhD, when I was ready to give up. I came so close. I kept pushing my supervisors to say, ‘Yeh, maybe you should quit’. They wouldn’t take the bait though. I even accepted a job at one point, with a view to withdrawing from university the next day. When I woke up, I withdrew my job acceptance instead.

Now, I am a senior research specialist at the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, and it is my dream job. I have been motivated to keep learning for life. I think that’s what university is about."


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