University of Newcastle graduations: Nikki Payne

STUDY: Nikki Payne studied through Open Foundation. NIKKI Payne never imagined undertaking university study, let alone a degree in medicine.

After schooling at Vacy Primary School and Dungog High School, Nikki attained administration qualifications and worked in accounting and hospitality before starting her family.

‘‘I wanted to be something my children could be proud of, but I still didn’t know what. I started [at] Open Foundation on the recommendation of a friend.

‘‘I eventually decided I wanted to do nursing, but I was getting better marks than I expected and so someone suggested I aim for medicine instead. I did and I got in,’’ she said.

The university’s enabling program Open Foundation this year celebrates 40 years of providing people a pathway to university study.

Ms Payne said the enabling program prepared her well for what lay ahead in university study.

‘‘I loved Open Foundation. I found the staff extremely supportive and encouraging, including the learning development team,’’ she said.

The University of Newcastle is the largest provider of domestic enabling programs in Australia and the proportion of its students from a low socio-economic background is 26per cent, significantly higher than the sector average of 16per cent.

Ms Payne admitted she was apprehensive before starting Open Foundation as she had not studied previously and did not know how she would cope with the pressure.

‘‘My lecturers helped my transition go rather smoothly, as did the new friends I made,’’ she said.

Ms Payne will be awarded a John Lambert Friends of the University Scholarship, on the basis of academic merit and equity criteria, to support her study in the highly competitive University of Newcastle Bachelor of medicine (Joint Medical Program).

‘‘Studying medicine is a whole new ball game, she said.

‘‘Going from part-time to full-time study was a major change, as well as going from one day per week away from my children to five days per week. Medicine is definitely challenging and also very interesting,’’ she said.

Nikki said she was keeping an open mind about potential specialities.

‘‘At this stage I’m considering two pathways – either rural GP and/or obstetrics. I like the idea of the variety a rural GP encounters.’’

Approximately 35,000 people have enrolled in the Open Foundation since it started as a pilot in 1974 with only 80 commencing students.

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