In touch with … Marina Deller

Having grown up on the Flinders University campus, it was a natural choice for Dr Marina Deller to also study here. Now armed with a Flinders PhD, Marina is passionate about helping students succeed – across many areas.

What are your roles at Flinders?

I like to call myself a jack-of-all-trades because I work across several casual roles at Flinders. I am a Learning Advisor for the Student Learning Support Service, a tutor in the Foundation Studies Program, and a one-on-one tutor for the Yungkurrinthi Tutorial Program in English and Creative Writing. Within the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, I also work as a guest lecturer, teach undergraduates, work as a Research Assistant on a few fantastic research projects, and am heavily involved with the Flinders-led research group The Life Narrative Lab. Across all these roles, I have a passion for student success and teaching lifelong critical and creative skills.

Marina holding the stencil of one of her poems which was painted on a CBD street

Outside of Flinders I also work in the award-winning independent bookseller Matilda Bookshop and publish my own creative writing and literary criticism… when I get the chance!

Tell us a little about your Flinders journey.

My parents both worked at Flinders, so I spent many afternoons when I was a kid traipsing around the Humanities courtyard, chasing magpies and getting a bit rabid on raspberry liquorice from the health food store. Sometimes I even got to sit in on my parents’ classes and watch the ‘big kids’ learning while I drew on the whiteboard. In a way, it was inevitable that I’d still be at ‘school’ more than two decades later.

I started studying English at Flinders during Year 12 as part of the Extension Studies program and quickly developed a deep love of the Creative Writing program. I headed into a Bachelor of Creative Arts in Creative Writing where I was taught by incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic teachers who helped foster my love of writing and reading but also championed collaboration and leadership.

Uni wasn’t always easy, though. During my studies, my best friend from childhood passed away unexpectedly, and months later we lost my mum, Dr Kate Deller-Evans, to breast cancer – a poet, academic and all-around extraordinary person. In the wake of these losses, I experienced homelessness and struggled with complex grief. I turned to the best tool I had at my disposal; storytelling. I got involved in creative readings, worked with other writers and peers on projects, and began publishing my own writing. I did a topic in Life Writing and realised that real stories make a real difference in the world. This inspired me to pursue a PhD in grief writing and material storytelling here at Flinders.

The PhD research process was transformative for me. By taking on a large-scale project, I realised how capable I was. I took on any opportunities that came my way, including teaching, presenting at conferences, volunteering on international projects, writing trips, interviewing authors, doing social media ‘takeovers’ and more. This meant I largely wrote my thesis in snatched moments – late at night, on the bus, even at parties. Despite how hectic it was, I thrived. There was a moment, when I was teaching in the same lecture theatre where I’d had my very first class at Flinders, that I knew I was in the right place, and following the right dream.

Earlier this year I completed my PhD and I’m now brainstorming my next big adventure while also revelling the chance to catch up on my own creative projects.

What is what favourite aspect of work?

Marina teaching in the same lecture theatre where she had her first university class.

It may be cliché, but I love that no two days are the same. One day I’ll be researching trauma narratives in Australian literature, the next I’ll be giving a lecture on world-building in short stories, the next I’ll be tutoring a student who is preparing their first ever oral presentation. My calendar looks like a crime scene board with all my commitments strung across the pages in hurried lines, but I am so thrilled to be working with such amazing people, problem-solving and sparking new ideas each day.

My next second favourite bit is seeing students learn and grow in front of my eyes. I’ve seen students go from scratching their head at their first assessment rubric to gaining entry into the Paramedicine program. I’ve watched as students who are nail-bitingly worried about their grades receive their first HD, and I’ve had emails from previous students telling me that their work is going to be published and ask if I would like to read it. It’s a privilege to be a part of student learning, and it feels very reciprocal; I have as much to learn from them as they do from me.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

Please don’t throw away your childhood diaries – they would’ve been really useful when writing your PhD! Also, freckles are cool actually.

Who inspires you? 

Marina with local writers at a Life Narrative Lab creative reading she curated

Knowledge-sharing is the bedrock of academic success and I wouldn’t be the person I am without a handful of wickedly clever and generous-to-a-fault academics and writers who I’ve met over the past few years. They inspire me with their passions and dedication to creativity and education, but they also literally inspire me to pick myself up and get going when I moan about writers’ block or similar nonsense. Special shout-outs go to Dr Edith Hill, Dr Molly Murn, and the Life Narrative Lab team.

What’s an interesting fact about you?

I can read a book while walking – it used to be my favourite way to walk home from school. I’d like to say it’s because I’m such a dedicated reader, but I put it down to good peripheral vision and a dogged desire to multitask at all times.

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