Career shaper: Meet Cecily Stewart

18 August 2020

Crawford School introduces our fantastic staff, so you can meet the people of Asia and the Pacific’s leading graduate policy school.

Today, we talk to Manager of National Recruitment and Development Cecily Stewart about how gardening keeps her connected with some of her favourite places in the world. Plus, she tells us about adapting Crawford’s postgraduate recruitment to a world shaped by COVID-19.

What is your role at Crawford and what do you enjoy most about it?

As the Manager of National Recruitment and Development at Crawford School, I’m responsible for marketing our range of postgraduate degrees in public policy, applied economics for policy and environmental management. I really enjoy exploring how postgraduate study fits with career goals and how we best communicate our degree options to prospective students. Postgraduate study is a transformational experience and it’s a privilege to be part of that journey in someone’s life.

Describe your home office for us.

My window to the world (shared with one black cat)!

Have you developed any new working-from-home routines or habits?

I have tried to stick to my daily routines to help me stay physically active and creatively inspired every day. My son has reskilled me in ‘modern’ basketball (seeing as I haven’t played it this century), and I’ve been planting herbs and veggies in my garden from some of my favourite places around the world to remind me of the good times spent travelling. Reading a lot of fiction – especially set around WWII – has been a great escape for me and inspired me to learn more about the lives of my grandparents someday.

All of our jobs have undergone major changes during the COVID-19 crisis. How has your role changed, and how might we go about addressing some of the challenges that come with this change going forward?

At Crawford School, and ANU generally, there has been a strong focus on seeing the opportunities in these times. For student recruitment, this has meant entirely new ways of reaching out and engaging with prospective students via virtual events with unlimited attendance, social media - and lots of career conversations on Zoom.

ANU will host its first-ever Virtual Open Week from 22-28 August and Crawford School is set to participate in a series of events to share our student experience – including a masterclass where anyone can join via Zoom to hear about research and education that is tackling some of the big issues in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. Being able to reach across Australia – and the world – at one recruitment event is an exciting highlight of my work at Crawford School.

Crawford School has also been very agile and adapted quickly to deliver the same best practice educational experience online, including our new Graduate Certificate in Environmental Management Online, which offers a fully online degree that can be completed in a single semester. This has been a really powerful example of how we can contend with some of the challenges of this time by seizing the opportunities presented to us. As a result, we’re now enabling even more students to study public policy – and shape the future of Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

Can you give us your top tips about how to stay positive during the COVID-19 outbreak?

I graduated with my undergraduate degree in mid-1992, which unfortunately coincided with the ‘recession we had to have’. The unemployment rate peaked at 10.7 per cent in September that year and the challenges of finding work as a young graduate continued for several years.

My first job after completing university was working in a factory in Richmond, the rag trade area of Melbourne, making sample fabric swatches. I was retrenched after about six weeks due to the plummet in consumer demand for clothing. With the employment outlook bleak, I decided to return to postgraduate study, completing a one-year graduate diploma before finally landing my first professional job at the University of Melbourne. As it turned out, completing that short postgraduate degree not only gave me a positive focus and sense of achievement during very challenging and depressing economic and social times, but it also put me in the right place at the right time to land my first job – and has definitely been helpful to me throughout my career.

So, from my own experience, I would strongly encourage people to see the similar challenges of these times as an opportunity to consider diving into some study for the personal and professional benefits it can bring.

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