Alumni spotlight: Sharyn Lowe and Ellen Weigall

Sharyn was one of the first students in RMIT’s Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations). Over 29 years later, her daughter followed in her footsteps.

Wednesday 28th September

Mum Sharyn Lowe was one of the first students to enrol in RMIT’s Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations), then known as the Bachelor of Arts (Public Relations). More than 29 years later, her daughter Ellen Weigall followed in her footsteps.

The pair now work at the same public relations and communications agency Sharyn founded after graduating in 1989. And the career-building course chosen by both mother and daughter is now high one of RMIT’s most sought-after degrees.

Wednesday 28th September

RMIT alumnus Marc stands smiling with a piece of aerospace equipment visible through windows beside him.

Public relations pioneer

In the late 80s, public relations (PR) was a developing field of work. RMIT was the first university to offer a degree in public relations and it produced industry pioneers like Sharyn.

“I was part of the first intake of students to the public relations course at RMIT in 1985 and everyone was still attempting to work out what this young new career option was all about,” she said.

“The course creators were very passionate about the field of PR and I trusted the course would be high calibre. 

“The degree became coveted in the years to come and it seemed everyone wanted to get into [RMIT’s] PR course.”

Glamorous and empowered  

For Ellen, working in public relations with her mum is a childhood dream come true.

“Growing up, I watched my mum launch, grow, and run an exciting and successful PR company with offices in Melbourne and Sydney,” she said.

“This was of course so empowering and motivating for me to observe growing up. She always had amazing clients that made my childhood exciting, with clients in shoes, makeup, fashion, décor and more. 

“She was able to help new businesses flourish and succeed, and she was able to contribute her opinions and knowledge in some of the world’s biggest companies. 

“Seeing her ideas brought to life made my ideas seem possible.”

Career doors wide open

Public relations professionals can work in roles in the corporate, government or non-profit sectors. Many choose to build their own businesses with the networking and entrepreneurial skills they develop at RMIT.

This includes Ellen, who established her own gin company two years after graduating.

“My course at RMIT gave me the skills to work with clients, write copy and produce ethical strategy for large and small companies,” Ellen said.

“My close friends from the course have ended up working for many top brands, where we are able to collaborate and work together a lot. So the networking aspect of the course has affected my career journey too.”

RMIT’s specialisation in public relations is a huge advantage for graduates, Sharyn said.

“After graduating there was never any issues with gaining employment,” she said.

“Back in the nineties mostly journalists were the ones who gained jobs in PR, however the degree gave me a wealth of knowledge beyond media relations. This opened doors for the vast array of opportunities in communications, public affairs and marketing fields.”

Changing with the times

As the PR industry has evolved, so too has the Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations) at RMIT. 

Strong communication skills continue to be at its core, alongside ​​media and stakeholder relations, strategy and industry research, relationship development and project management.

“Public relations now covers so many more areas than when I first joined the workforce,” Sharyn said.

“Because RMIT backed the profession by introducing the first PR course, many other Australian universities followed suit. This has ensured the profession continues to develop and keep ahead of the changing media and communications landscape. 

“The profession is certainly more strategic now and integrates with many other business disciplines.”

RMIT’s reputation as a leader in communications-based courses ensures it is a top choice for prospective students.

“RMIT is well-known for having [some of] the best communications courses in Australia, so it was of course my first pick for PR,” Ellen said. 

“PR courses at other unis are often grouped into arts degrees, and I liked the idea of having a specialised communications degree.”

Ellen is pictured standing in front of RMIT's building 3 smiling. “RMIT is well-known for having [some of] the best communications courses in Australia, so it was of course my first pick for PR,” Ellen said.

Lifelong social connections

Friendships forged at university have made Ellen and Sharyn’s RMIT journey even more memorable. This includes connections made with a wide range of RMIT’s social clubs.

“It means a lot to me to have grown the RMIT Redbacks Cheerleading Club at my time there,” said Ellen.

“When I joined there were only 20 members and one team, when I left there were over 75 members and six teams. 

“Being on the committee with many other comms girls, we were able to use our PR skills to promote the club, grow the club and get it out of a lot of debt by hosting some legendary parties and coming up with other creative money raising activities.”

Alumni pride

Being RMIT alumni is a source of pride for Sharyn and Ellen – not only because of RMIT’s PR credentials, but also because RMIT is a leader in the higher education community.

“I’m very proud to be an RMIT alum and even prouder that my daughter has also joined the community,” said Sharyn. 

“RMIT has always been ahead on values such as diversity, inclusion and the environment so it’s a place you can feel good about having on your degree.”

Story: Kate Jones

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.