Laura Bergan with son William Bergan.

No pregnant pause for policy pupil

27 March 2015

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Crawford School’s energy economics course sparked Master of Public Policy student Laura Bergan’s interest in the topic but the same can’t be said for her son – potentially Crawford’s youngest student - who found the soothing tones of the lecture a great opportunity to have a nap.

William Bergan commenced study at Crawford School of Public Policy at the young age of six weeks alongside his devoted mother, Laura, who completed a subject while in the early days of her maternity leave.

The balancing act didn’t start there though, with Laura completing a final exam on the day William was due. Luckily for her, William was two weeks late, enabling the exam to go ahead without any problems.

“I could have never done any of that balancing if it wasn’t for the accommodating nature of my professors.

“Being pregnant with William and studying Domestic Climate Change Policy (EMDV8081) with Professor Frank Jotzo was a wonderful journey despite the anxious wait of having a baby and an exam due on the same date – it’s certainly not ideal.

“But the brilliant Professor Jotzo was incredibly accommodating and adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach to exam scheduling,” said Laura.

Crawford’s teaching tools proved very helpful to Laura who completed the online exam from the comfort of her home – something that is very useful when you’re 40 weeks pregnant. It is circumstances like Laura’s and those of students working in remote areas that has led the school to develop a fully online Master of Environmental Management and Development, enrolling part-time from this semester and full time from semester 1, 2016.

Two years later, Laura has remained committed to her Master degree at Asia and the Pacific’s leading public policy school while juggling her full time position as a senior policy officer at the Department of Industry and Science (DIS) and of course, her two children and husband. As if that wasn’t enough, she has also taken on the role of 2015 President of the Crawford School Students’ Association (CSSA).

“I chose Crawford School because of its reputation as being the most prestigious public policy school in the region.

“Now that I have had a chance to study here, I really appreciate that the lecturers are world class academics, who are experts in their chosen field. I also really value the high proportion of policymakers from countries across the globe that are my fellow classmates. The class discussions and out of class relationships are rich and diverse which has really added to my experience as a student,” said Laura

Laura credits Crawford’s flexible learning environment and the school’s online facilities for allowing students to follow their dreams of a Master degree while also working full time and /or raising a family.

“When William used to come along to my Energy Economics class with Professor David Stern with me, my peers loved having him and happily cuddled him during breaks. When I had to give class presentations, William was handed around the class so I could talk with my hands free.

“However, if we weren’t feeling up to it, I could catch up and complete the course using the recording system - I never missed out or fell behind,” said Laura.

In her role with DIS, Laura works in developing engagement policy and programs for energy efficiency. She says she never set out for a career in public policy, but she’s relishing the challenge of being involved in such a key policy area.

“I was quite slow at deciding what I wanted to do after high school. I basically stumbled into the world of energy efficiency, and to develop a passion for public policy has been a very positive experience.

“Working in public policy allows me to play a role in shaping Australia, which is a privilege that I definitely appreciate,” said Laura.

The courses she is taking at Crawford are directly relevant to the challenges she faces in her career.

“When commencing in my current role, I undertook Climate Change Policy (EMDV8081) and Energy Economics (IDEC8089) to get a thorough understanding of the broader elements affecting the energy sector. Currently I am taking Policy Advocacy (POGO8083), to assist me in developing the narrative which tells the story of our program and helps in framing our work,” said Laura.

But as if juggling parenthood, study and a full-time job isn’t enough, Laura is also planning several events and seminars in her role as President of the CSSA.

“Being part of the CSSA is really rewarding. I have developed a range of new skills and experiences, and have been able to build relationships with a range of public policy professionals.

“As President, I would like to better develop the strategic direction for the association, to take a good look at how we can really add value for the students of Crawford School that we represent, to provide unique opportunities that they can’t get elsewhere,” said Laura.

Laura’s advice to expecting mothers or parents who are raising families while planning to study at Crawford School was simple.

“Don’t be nervous about commencing or continuing your studies while trying to juggle babies and young families. If it doesn’t work out you can easily pull back, but if you don’t give it a go you’ll never know,” said Laura.

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