The 2014 RMIT Honorary Awards and Graduation Ceremony was held on Friday 23 May 2014 at Storey Hall.

About the recipients

Professor Dennis Gibson AO was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Science

Adjunct Professor Lee Kwok Cheong was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Business

Sonam Sarita was awarded the RMIT Award for Vocational Education

Jordan Russell Lockett was awarded the RMIT Award for Higher Education

Katherine Babatsikos was awarded the Patricia Guthrie Memorial Award

Ricardo Saracoglu was awarded the J. N. McNicol Prize

Michael Jeremy Mortlock was awarded the Beazley Award

Elena Ayre was the recipient of the Francis Ormond Medal

Professor Felicity Roddick was the recipient of the Ralph McIntosh Medal

Professor Dennis Gibson AO

Professor Gibson has had a distinguished and significant career in higher education leadership. He has contributed to major sector-wide reforms in Australia, as well as making extensive contributions to university governance and particularly to RMIT University.

Professor Gibson has taken on the roles of Chancellor of RMIT University, the first Vice-Chancellor of Queensland University of Technology and a member of the Councils of Bond University and Torrens University. He also serves as an advisor to the Irish Higher Education Authority and as a Department Chair to the Australian Research Council.

In 1989, he oversaw QUT’s transition from an Institute of Technology to a University and steered it deftly through a major set of amalgamations, while also consolidating its campuses and its reach across the city of Brisbane.

Under his 21-year leadership QUT flourished, building significant research strengths to add to its reputation as a ‘university for the real world’.

He was instrumental in creating the Australian Technology Network of universities, which flourishes to this day, providing focus, collaborative strength and policy advocacy for the five universities of technology in Australia.

Not only did Professor Gibson create the template for success for QUT to become a university, he also served on the Dawkins review of higher education in the late 1980s that created the unified national system under which QUT and others such as RMIT became universities.

Professor Gibson became Chancellor of RMIT University in 2003 and remained in that role until 2010. He has a science degree with first class honours from the University of Hull, where he received the University prize in mathematics; and a PhD in a field of applied mathematics, magnetohydrodynamics, from University of Newcastle (UK). He was awarded a Higher Doctorate of Science in 1987 by the UK Council for National Academic Awards and has honorary doctorates from QUT and the University of the Sunshine Coast.

One referee said his AO and Centenary Medal are well deserved and recognise a contribution to the sector well beyond the norm, and with a lasting legacy.

Another referee said Professor Gibson fulfilled his role at RMIT embodying three qualities:

  • Firstly, commitment to ensuring RMIT’s success, both nationally and internationally at the highest levels, through innovation and review in governance and procedures.
  • Secondly, culture: Professor Gibson promoted a culture that was open, respectful of diverse opinions, and consistently positive, even when there were challenging issues that needed to be addressed.
  • And finally, collegiality: He believed in collegial decision-making, but he also acknowledged and assumed the very significant role that the Chancellor has in providing direction and guidance to the Council and to the Vice-Chancellor.

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Adjunct Professor Lee Kwok Cheong

Professor Lee has been committed to the expansion of quality higher education in Singapore in partnership with universities from around the globe.

As a result he has expanded the provision of higher education not only in Singapore but for students from many other Asia Pacific nations.

This is his second major career after decades spent developing the IT industry in Singapore.

Professor Lee has been Chief Executive Officer of Singapore Institute of Management Pte Limited since 2005 and a member of its Board. Singapore Institute of Management is responsible among its other activities for SIM Global Education, which is the entity engaged in international educational partnerships, and SIM University which is Singapore’s only private university. Professor Lee is also a member of the Board of Trustees of SIM University.

In the past decade, he has driven the development of SIM Global Education in terms of the quality of its provision of education, facilities and student experience to make it one of the premier private higher education institutions in Singapore.

SIM Global Education is the largest private tertiary institution in Singapore, with more than 20,000 students – more than doubling its student numbers in the last 10 years, with much of that expansion in concert with RMIT.

SIM Global Education also has the highest level of accreditation through EduTrust in Singapore, attesting to its quality. Its partner universities, of which RMIT is the largest, include University of Sydney and Wollongong from Australia, and the Universities of Birmingham, London and Warwick from the UK.

Prior to taking up his role at SIM, Professor Lee was CEO of National Computer Systems Pte Ltd (NCS), a subsidiary of Singtel, and took up the role as Chairman of the NCS Board in 2005 on stepping down as CEO. Under his guidance, the organisation became a regional IT and communications engineering powerhouse, more than quadrupling revenues in the decade to 2005.

In 2011 Professor Lee was named as a member of the IT Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to the IT industry. He was also awarded the Public Service Medal in the 2010 National Day Awards of Singapore, in recognition of his contribution to education and IT.

One of his referees said he was a strong advocate for providing a holistic education to students. Under his leadership, SIM’s 64 student clubs – ranging from sports to music ensembles – aim to help students achieve a well-rounded education.

Another referee said Professor Lee’s leadership quality, reputation in IT and management capacity made him a perfect candidate for an honorary doctorate.

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Sonam Sarita

The RMIT Award for Vocational Education is presented annually to a vocational education student who has displayed leadership potential and initiative and has an excellent academic record.

Sonam Sarita was conferred with the award – Advanced Diploma of Engineering Technology – Electrical. She achieved a perfect GPA score of 4.0. Sonam was selected to study the Advanced Diploma program at RMIT after completing a bachelor degree overseas and after gaining three years of industrial experience. Sonam’s strong communication and interpersonal skills were regularly sought from class members and during project work she took on the responsibility of helping other team members to consolidate vast amounts of information into coherent sets of ideas that could be quickly applied to solving the problems at hand.

Sonam initiated a project with an energy group in India for the installation of micro-hydroelectricity power of 10kW to provide lighting for a remote village in Sikkim as well as working part time, Sonam volunteers her time to assist with the quality of life of disabled children.

Jordan Russell Lockett

The RMIT Award for Higher Education is presented annually to a bachelor degree student who has displayed leadership potential and initiative and has an excellent academic record.

Jordan Lockett was conferred with the degree – Bachelor of Social Work with First Class Honours. He graduated with a cumulative GPA of 3.9 after high distinctions in 23 of the courses in which he was enrolled. Jordan was an active and popular member of the Student Staff Consultative Committee where he responded to students’ issues and addressed them with staff members in a discreet and diplomatic manner. Jordan co-founded the Social Work Alliance Project (SWAP) to provide a forum for social work students to interact across the three degrees (Bach Social Work, Social Science Psychology/Social Work and Master of Social Work). SWAP now has 520 members and the website is used daily by social work students, social workers, alumni and teaching staff to discuss social work matters.

RMIT has a visual reminder of Jordan’s activism following his four year campaign for the Aboriginal flag to be raised in Bowen Lane. The flag was erected last year.

Jordan has worked as an art therapist at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre and at Neami National (North Eastern Alliance of Mental Illness) Mental Health Outreach Service as a Community Rehabilitation Support Worker. Jordan intends to continue studying at RMIT and plans to study for a PhD in Creative Arts Therapy. He aims to be the first professor in Creative Arts and Therapy.

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Katherine Babatsikos

The prize is provided through the generosity of the Guthrie family, and is awarded in commemoration of Patricia Guthrie who was RMIT’s first female head of the vocational Education School of Communication and Social Science and a valued and much respected member of staff of RMIT. This award is based on academic excellence, social awareness and involvement in community affairs.

Katherine Babatsikos was conferred with the degree – Bachelor of Business (Business Information Systems). She gained numerous high distinctions and Distinctions throughout her program and graduated with Distinction. Katherine returned to study as a mature age student and actively participated in classroom activities where she contributed her skills in leadership and encouraged fellow students to take on leadership roles. Katherine has also volunteered her time to support the School participating in Open Day activities and she won the NAB Employer of Choice award for women for most outstanding female, second year student in her program.

Katherine worked at MLC (NAB) as part of her work integrated learning year and also gave her time to Foodbank Victoria to pick and pack food for distribution to disadvantaged people and she regularly contributes her computer skills at a local senior citizens club maintaining the member database and assisting senior citizens to fill out paperwork.

Ricardo Saracoglu

The J N McNicol Prize recognises outstanding academic achievement, leadership potential and initiative in an undergraduate program. The award commemorates the late J N McNicol. Mr McNicol joined the staff of the Working Men’s college in 1886.

Ricardo Saracoglu was conferred with the degree – Bachelor of Business (Economics and Finance) with Distinction. Throughout his studies Ricardo strove for a high standard of academic excellence. He was rewarded by receiving 21 high distinctions from the 24 units that made up his program, and his GPA of 3.9 was the highest of his graduating cohort.

During his time at RMIT, Ricardo was proactive in developing his leadership skills and taking initiative. While studying Ricardo worked as a sales assistant where he engaged with clients in a sincere and friendly manner to build relationships and ensure repeat business. He received a Silver Sales Award for his outstanding sales result for the 2011 financial year.

Ricardo was a Student Learning Advisor Mentor in the SLAMs program at RMIT where he advised other students on methods of study and processes for completing assignments on time.

Ricardo’s hard work and outstanding academic excellence resulted in an offer of an Accounting and Finance graduate position from Toyota Motor Corporation Australia.

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Michael Jeremy Mortlock

The Beazley Award is named after the late Mr William Beazley who was a member of the Victorian State Parliament during the latter years of the 19th century. Mr Beazley was a leading campaigner for the recognition of technical education and its acceptance within the community.

The Beazley Award is presented to an apprentice who demonstrates scholastic achievement and academic excellence, as well as attitude, leadership potential and a commitment to quality outcomes.

Michael Mortlock completed the Certificate III in Plumbing program in 2013. After deciding on a career change Michael began a pre-apprenticeship program in plumbing at RMIT. This enabled him to gain an apprenticeship with Chase Plumbing and also enrol in the apprenticeship in Plumbing program at RMIT. Five plumbing streams are the compulsory course requirements for this apprenticeship. Michael elected to enrol in all six plumbing streams that RMIT offers in order to challenge himself. He proved himself to be a diligent and hard worker. He passed all six steams of plumbing on his first attempt. Michael has thoroughly enjoyed his program at RMIT and is currently enrolled in the Certificate IV in Plumbing which will aid his future ambition to run his own business.

Elena Ayre

Currently, Senior Project Officer for Vocational Education in the Science, Engineering and Health College Office, Ms Ayre commenced work at RMIT in 1997 as a Technical Assistant (Dental) in the Department of Health and Clinical Sciences.

During at her time at RMIT her other roles have included teaching in the Dental Assisting and Dental Technology program from 1999, an administrative officer in the same department from 2001, Project Officer TAFE in the Science, Engineering and Technology Portfolio in 2004, and Academic Services coordinator in the School of Engineering TAFE in 2008 and 2009.

Her colleagues have described Ms Ayre as one of the “back room” people who make stuff work, a “go to” person who gets things done.

“She provides a level of expertise in vocational education and apprenticeship and trainee administration that is unparalleled in the University. Working with Elena directly, or as part of a team she is involved in, consistently leads to successful outcomes for everyone involved.

“She is able to not only bring her understanding of processes and functionality required to manage Vocational Education students, but also understands the priorities for delivery and the strategic imperatives of the Science, Engineering and Health College and the University executive.

“This combination of qualities allows Elena to operate in areas where very few in the University are able to do. In governance groups and working parties, Elena is able to provide practical operational and process advice, but also understands the importance and value proposition she is representing. She understands constraints faced by the University and works to maximise value in the projects in which she works.”

Even though Elena only represents only one of the Colleges of RMIT, she is well respected by others and often assumes a leadership role in the groups in which she participates.

She also has a friendly and warm style which makes her approachable and extremely cooperative in achieving goals, and happily works her way through every new challenge she is presented.

Extremely efficient and dedicated, she is always looking for the best outcomes for everyone and is a person who deserves recognition for her loyalty to RMIT University.

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Professor Felicity Roddick

Professor Roddick is the Associate Dean (Research and Innovation) in the College of Science, Engineering and Health. She commenced work at RMIT in 1971 and is the second longest serving member of staff.

Her career has been varied and she has willingly taken on challenging and difficult senior roles to further the University’s performance, growth and reputation in teaching and research.

These have included terms as Head of the Department of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, foundation Head of the School of Civil and Chemical Engineering, interim Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor, and now, Associate Dean, Research and Innovation in the College of Science, Engineering and Health.

In her role as Associate Dean, she has worked tirelessly to improve the intellectual environment and experience for the higher degree by research students in the College.

She has coached, mentored and empowered the school postgraduate coordinators to be proactive in addressing areas where student satisfaction could be improved. She has promoted the importance of publishing, timely completion and conference attendance to HDR students and supervisors.

She has implemented strategies to improve supervisory skills, using her experience as a first supervisor of 39 students and second supervisor of 13 others. She has worked hard to improve support for HDR students and has overseen major improvements in administrative processes within the College.

Her work has had a positive impact on completion rates, candidate satisfaction and ultimately the research reputation of the university are clear. She has enhanced and enriched the intellectual research environment for HDR students in the College immeasurably.

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