Mentoring for success

Jonathon Sweeney


Jonathon Sweeney

Bachelor of Science

Coming to Flinders University as a mature-aged student – a decade after leaving high school, having worked as a chef and with a wife and two children to support – presented Jonathon Sweeney with quite a few unexpected challenges.

“Returning to full time study wasn’t a decision I made lightly,” says Jonathon. “It meant a huge drop in income for three years, while supporting a family and paying a mortgage. That isn’t an easy task for anyone.”

Jonathon is especially grateful for receiving assistance and encouragement to get started at university. TAFE qualifications he completed to become a chef helped him gain entry to Flinders. “I had to complete a literacy and numeracy topic, and some of the maths I required for my science degree was foreign to me, but my lecturers assisted me far beyond what I expected.”

Now, having achieved his dream job as a Ranger with National Parks and Wildlife South Australia, Jonathon admits it wasn’t just his studies that helped him achieve his goal. In his third year at Flinders, Jonathon was a successful applicant in the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand mentee/mentor program, being paired for six months with Bronte Nixon, Principal Environmental Scientist and Planner of WSP in Adelaide.

He was also nominated by a lecturer to go to Climate Reality Training hosted by Al Gore, and received guidance in a research project that lead to him working with the Natural Resource Management Board in Kingston SE.

“My success came from applying for mentor/mentee programs and a number of other extra curriculum programs based around the science field,” says Jonathon. “All of these extra curriculum activities really pushed me over the line in gaining employment as a Ranger.”

His achievement also came from being driven to do his very best.

“Success to me wasn’t just completing a degree, it was excelling,” says Jonathon. “My father-in-law is an Associate Professor in Microbiology and before I started my degree, he mentioned something that his students often told him, that Ps (passes) get you degrees, and they do – but Ps don’t get you jobs.”

Jonathon’s study habits have taught him to reach further and achieve more in his work as a Ranger. “I aspire to connect with our First Nations more, and build on the co-management of Country. There is a place for Aboriginal Ecological Knowledge and western science now, in our colonised society, and I want to encourage more First Nations people on Country to work together with us. This will play a vital role in the future to managing Country.”

Find out more on the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand’s mentee/mentor program that Jonathan was mentored through.

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