SCU Alumni Scholarship

Published in Issue 4 - 2016

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Jessica Michaels, Dan Sloan, Sharni Lavis

For SCU alumnus Sharni Lavis, her recent honeymoon to Milan with new-husband and fellow SCU osteopathy graduate Grant Sinclair was more than just a celebration of marriage.

It was also the culmination of five years of hard work at university, which has enabled her to pursue her passion for osteopathy and also brought Grant into her life.

Sharni has just completed a Master of Osteopathic Medicine after completing the Bachelor of Clinical Sciences (Osteopathic Studies) in 2014, and she attributes the Alumni Scholarship she received for helping her get there.

“I began my studies as a single mum, to a gorgeous six-year-old boy,” she said.

“We moved up here from Sydney and I had no support network or anyone to help out with my son Kye.

“Needless to say, juggling my degree, being a good mum to my son and trying to work to support us through this degree has been extremely challenging financially, emotionally and physically.

“Being awarded the Alumni Scholarship meant that I could carry on with the five-year degree and work just that little bit less and spend more time with my son while continuing on with my studies.

“It came at a time where I just wasn’t sure if I could keep going the extra two years required in the Masters degree without completely burning out.”

Before moving to the North Coast, Sharni owned her own business in Sydney and worked as a remedial massage therapist for many years but always felt there was more she could do to help her patients.“I’ve always had a passion for manual therapy and helping people and I’ve always enjoyed study so the idea of furthering my knowledge in this area was no hard sell,” she said.

“To be honest, I fell into osteopathy without fully understanding what it was all about but now I would never look back. It has turned out exactly how it was meant to and it was the best decision I ever made for many reasons.

“I had been told by other students of osteopathy that SCU provided the best osteopathic course in Australia.

“I also chose Southern Cross University because the campus in Lismore provided me the best opportunity to be able to afford to support my son, work and study with a lower cost of living.”

It was during her first year of study Sharni met her future husband Grant.

“We met at university when Grant was in his final year of study to become an osteopath and I was in my first year,” she said.

“We had so much in common and got along so well, bonded by our passion for osteopathy and being massive human anatomy nerds, it wasn’t hard to fall in love.

“Grant graduated and moved to Brisbane for the first two years of his career, but drove back to Alstonville every weekend to visit because he never wanted to miss out on time together with Kye and me.

“After two years of travelling, we decided to open Alstonville Osteopathy Integrative Health Centre and we’ve never looked back.

“That was two years ago now, then one year ago we became engaged and in November we got married surrounded by our family and friends including our beautiful osteopathic family.”

Grant now lectures at Southern Cross University in the School of Health and Human Sciences while working as the principal osteopath at the Alstonville business.

“We love our clinic and the people who work there are like family to us. We have three osteopaths, four massage therapists, a Pilates instructor and a clinical naturopath working with us and seven of those are now Southern Cross University graduates,” Sharni said.

Sharni says that as a business co-owner her role included clinic manager, remedial massage therapist, website designer, marketing and accounts manager, human resources manager and now osteopath.

“There are so many things I loved about my university experience – it gave me the chance to show my son and myself, that anything is possible if you put your heart and soul into it. I’m very proud to be the first person in my family to go to university,” she said.

“I have gained the most amazing base of knowledge from which to grow from in my new career as an osteopath which just wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work and assistance of the academic staff at the University.

“I have made lifelong special friendships that I will always cherish and value and I have learnt so much about myself and what’s important in life.

“In the future both Grant and I would love to be able to help other single parents who have full-time care of their children while completing university studies – we are looking into options for providing and sponsoring a financial scholarship, which would be the first of its kind.”

Sharni was awarded the Alumni Scholarship last year, alongside fellow Master of Osteopathic Medicine student Jessica Michaels, who will complete her studies in Lismore in December next year.

Jessica similarly met her partner Lachlan King during the course, and the couple has also started their own business Evans Head Holistic Health on the NSW North Coast.

“I was so thrilled to receive the Alumni Scholarship, as it was based on GPA and also community involvement – so having a job as a dance teacher in a Lismore studio really helped,” Jessica said.

“Because I came from a dance background and studied ballet full time I didn’t finish high school completely so I went through the University’s Preparing for Success at SCU Program which set me up with the skills I needed for university study.

“The scholarship obviously helped financially, but for me personally it was more of a confidence booster for the recognition of all the hard work I’ve done. Never before had I thought I would be good at academia – it was really nice for my family to be so proud of me.”

Jessica said she and Lachlan had both studied and worked for the University and bonded over their ‘nerdy’ love of anatomy and physiology – a stigma she says most of the osteo students on campus share.

“Sometimes I say ‘that’s enough osteo talk’ because he loves talking about it all the time, but it is definitely our shared passion and we are so thrilled we are now business owners and meeting a community need in Evans Head with a warm community reception and support from the local medical centre,” she said.

“I also plan to use my osteo skills to help and treat dancers and might look into travelling to the Gold Coast a day a week to pursue that once I have graduated.”

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