Jennie Waters is a proud Aboriginal woman who has used her psychology degree from the University of Southern Queensland as a springboard to significantly improve health outcomes for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Southwest Queensland, while also inspiring many young people from her community to view education as a pathway to greater opportunity. After graduating from UniSQ in 1996 with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology Major), Jennie has worked for many years in the Indigenous healthcare sector in Southwest Queensland. Throughout her studies and in her working life, Jennie has been driven by the desire to give back to her community, and to help others to reach their potential. She has always been motivated to help improve the health and education of others, particularly those in the Indigenous community. This passion took on a new direction when in 2015 she took the bold step of founding her own business, IndigiCare Connect, which is a registered NDIS service provider delivering a broad range of disability support services to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Southwest Queensland. Jennie was a Ministerial appointment to the Queensland Rural Health Advisory Board from 2003-2006 and is a founding member of the Southwest Indigenous Corporation. She authored and delivered a training program entitled “Towards Cultural Safety in the Health Environment,” providing professional development for general practitioners in the region. She is currently working on projects, including the development of St George Harmony Centre, a cultural hub that will house Indigenous language, art, and culture.
Outstanding Alumnus in Health and Wellbeing & Alumnus of the Year
Bachelor of Applied Science, 1996
Highly Commended Alumnus in Health and Wellbeing
Bachelor of Nursing, 1996
Alanna completed a Bachelor of Nursing in 1994 with the University of Southern Queensland and today is the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer at Metro North Hospital and Health Service in Brisbane. In this role, she also served as a Commander for the Health Service for the COVID-19 Response Unit. Named a Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing in August 2019, Alanna is a Board Member of both the RBWH Foundation and the Metro North Surgical Treatment & Rehabilitation Services Alliance Board. Alanna has been deservedly recognised for her dedication and service to the Queensland nursing profession over the years. In 2017 she was the winner of the Metro North Staff Excellence Award – Leadership Excellence and was named as an Honorary Member of the RBWH Foundation Royal Family (Sapphire) in 2016. In 2014 she won the Excellence in Leadership category at the Queensland Premiers Awards, and that same year was also awarded the RBWH Quality Award in Leadership & Management for the Cancer Nursing Professional Precinct.
Young Alumnus of the Year
Bachelor of Laws, 2017; and Bachelor of Business, 2017
Simon was in the first cohort of students to graduate with a Bachelor of Law (with second class honours) and a Bachelor of Business from the School of Law and Justice in April 2017. Simon enrolled in law after completing his secondary school education from a rural school at Pittsworth and has gone on to become a pivotal ambassador of the school. Simon was an executive member of the USQ Law Society (2015 – 2016). Once graduated, continued to engage with the school in activities cutting across learning and teaching, research and engaging, mentoring, and developing alumni. Simon has recently joined the National Heart Foundation of Australia in the position of Legal Counsel after five years of working in private law firms. He was excited by the opportunity to work for the Heart Foundation as they are a long-standing charity in Australia and after experiencing the loss of his father at a young age because of heart disease. On top of his high-profile profession, Simon remains committed to his volunteering and community roles. He is currently the Independent Chair for the Toowoomba Headspace Consortium and was newly elected by his Queensland peers to the inaugural Queensland Law Society Future Leaders Committee out of around 70 candidates. Simon is currently the Deputy President of the Future Leaders Committee and is also the Queensland Law Society’s representative on the Law Council of Australia’s Young Lawyers Committee.
Highly Commended Young Alumnus of the Year
Bachelor of Creative Arts, 2011
2011 Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Media) alumnus Jake Stormoen is an actor, writer, and producer with more than 30 credits to his name, including playing Captain Garret Spears in the TV series The Outpost, and taking out the Best Supporting Actor award at the 2015 Utah Film Festival for his role as Airk in The Christmas Dragon. Jake co-wrote and produced the television movie Love, Lost & Found, and has had many voice-over roles in television, films, and video games. In 2022 he founded the company Unearthed Emporium following the success of his first company Storm Forged Dice! In 2019, providing specialised gaming dice for role players worldwide. From 2019 – 2021, Jake gave multiple presentations to students at various levels of education to assist them in trying to pursue a career in acting and has participated in a variety of alumni engagement activities with UniSQ. He also volunteered as a guest speaker to the 2021 UniSQ film cohort. Jake is no stranger to volunteering – he’s offered his time at more than 15 charity Dungeons and Dragons events throughout the United States to raise money for charity.
Outstanding Alumnus in Business and Enterprise
Bachelor of Business, 1994
Stephen O’Brien is a fifth-generation O’Brien family Toowoomba boy with an affiliation in the food industry that began at a young age in his family owned, Defiance Mill. Following his schooling at Nudgee College in Brisbane, Stephen attained a Diploma in Flour Milling and soon after, an apprenticeship as a fitter, turner, and machinist. At the age of 26, Stephen took the opportunity to further his studies at Toowoomba’s UniSQ, completing a Degree in Business before undertaking further study with the Australian Institute of Company Directors. His combined experiences have allowed him to hold key roles with several listed, privately owned, and private equity-based organisations. He has successfully led both food and beverage business in all states and territories across Australia. Additionally, Stephen has held executive and directorship roles with international companies in the USA, Middle East, Asia Pacific and across the African continent. In 2020, Stephen took on what he says rivals all previous positions, stepping into the role of CEO of Toowoomba’s rapidly growing agricultural business, Mort & Co. Stephen is also a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Highly Commended Alumnus in Business and Enterprise
Postgraduate Certificate in Business, 2011; Master of Business Administration, 2012; and Postgraduate Certificate in Business, 2014
Niranjalli created her own academy in leadership and talent development, LEADIN – The Academy of Leadership and Talent Development in 2011 – the same year she started her UniSQ journey when she completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Business in Human Resource Management. Upon completion of the postgraduate, she received an award for The Most Significant Contributor to Learning and Development. She followed on with more education with the University, starting an MBA in 2012 and then a Postgraduate Certificate in Business in 2013. That same year she was a visiting lecturer for the UniSQ MBA Program in 2013 She is currently a Senior Manager – Training and Development for AIA Sri Lanka and is a former President, Secretary and Vice President CPD of the UniSQ Sri Lanka Alumni Chapter. Niranjalli also trains students for exams in speech and drama for the London College of Music Examinations and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and offers consulting work for external organisations and banks.
Jessica van Vonderen
Outstanding Alumnus in Creative Industries and Humanities
Bachelor of Arts, 2000
Growing up on the Darling Downs, Jessica completed her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Anthropology & German at the University’s Toowoomba campus in 2000 and went on to cut her teeth in the ABC’s Toowoomba and Bundaberg radio newsrooms before breaking into television news at the national broadcaster’s Brisbane studios. Between 2004 and 2012 she was the State Political Reporter for ABC News Brisbane and was a regular host and reporter for Queensland state elections until 2020 and was also the presenter for the ABC’S much-loved Stateline program from 2009 to 2012. Today she is the presenter of Queensland’s flagship 7pm TV news program and delights in speaking with the next generation of future journalists about careers in literacy and the media.
Highly Commended Alumnus in Creative Industries and Humanities
Bachelor of Arts, 2000; and Doctor of Philosophy, 2006
Rebecca is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Wilderwood Equine Therapy & Rescue - a non-profit charity to service people with autism – and co-wrote the Wilderwood curriculum for children’s and youth, and adult programs. She graduated from the University of Southern Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts, English Literature and History (with distinction) in 2000 and completed her PhD in Cognitive Linguistics in 2006. These achievements were once thought impossible by Rebecca, who was abandoned by her parents at the age of 15 forcing her to drop out of high school with a Year 9 education. Diagnosed with autism later in life, Rebecca said her success to date is thanks to a combination of strikingly sharp intellect, tenacity, and luck. Rebecca also wrote a memoir called Joy and wrote and produced the award-winning documentary, Hautism and Wilderwood. In 2022 she was named as the winner of the Bob Thomas Achievement Award. She has also led the creation of a Writing Centre at Bakersfield College in California, and was a Director for Divergent Labs, a non-profit board for autistic people from 2019 until 2022.
Outstanding Alumnus in Education
Bachelor of General Studies, 2006; and Master of Education, 2009
Pamela is the Executive Director and Founder of GROW Community Food Literacy Centre – a registered charity in Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. A farmer, researcher, teacher and community advocate, Pamela is on a mission to apply food literacy research into practice to improve healthy eating and social justice in the Niagara Falls region. Originally from Switzerland, she completed a bachelor’s degree (General Studies) with distinction in 2006 with the University of Southern Queensland and followed that with a Master of Education (Special Education) in 2009. Earlier this year Pamela was recognised in the top 75 Canadian immigrants for her work in food literacy and food security and was also named as one of 10 honourees for the L’Oréal Paris Woman of Worth Award. She is currently a Sessional Lecturer at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.
Outstanding Alumnus in Law and Justice
Bachelor of Laws, 2012
Jenna completed a Bachelor of Laws at UniSQ 10 years ago and today is working as a Partner at Turner Freeman Lawyers where she heads the Queensland Wills and Estates team. The Valedictorian of her graduating class at UniSQ in 2012, Jenna participated in the University’s Grants for Embedded Learning and Teaching Strategy program and was the first graduate of the University’s Law Program to be made partner in a national law firm. Jenna was listed in Doyle’s Guide as one of the recommended Wills & Estates Litigation Lawyers in Queensland for 2020 and 2021 and is a committee member of the Society of Trust and Equity Practitioners Queensland Branch, as well as a member of the Queensland Law Society. She willingly gives back her time to her Alma Mater, participating in the UniSQ Career Conversations series and presenting as a guest speaker at the UniSQ Supreme Court networking event. Jenna is also a volunteer at the Homeless Persons Legal Clinic.
Outstanding Alumnus in Science and Engineering
Master of Engineering, 2017
Rod is the Managing Director, Principal Engineer, and Co-founder of Black Square Engineering. The industrial engineering services company has headquarters in Brisbane with regional offices based in Toowoomba, the Sunshine Coast and Townsville, providing solutions throughout Australia and Southeast Asia. He completed a Master of Engineering (Engineering Management) with the University of Southern Queensland in 2017 and remains connected to the institution as a Mentor in the 2022 UniSQ Student Leadership Excellence Academy. Rod is also the Director, Co-inventor and Co-founder of GR Products, and the Director, Co-founder, and Chair of the peopleproject Institute – an independent think tank dedicated to rehumanising people in the information age for the betterment of the world. A Director of Metro Holdings, he also holds memberships with the Risk Engineering Society, Australian Institute of Company Directors, Australian Amusement, Leisure and Recreation Association Inc, Elevated Work Platform Association, and Osmosis. Rod is also a Senior Office Bearer, College Chair and a Member of Congress and the Professional Standards Committee for Engineers Australia. In 2014 Rod was recognised at the Queensland Engineering Excellence Awards for Industrial Development and Manufacturing from Engineers Australia. He currently holds two patents within Australia and serves as an Executive Director of Zeus Austral Pacific.
Highly Commended Alumnus in Science and Engineering
Master of Business Administration, 2012
Paul Morris is an engineering leader with a career in aerospace spanning 30 years. He has extensive experience across the aerospace services value chain, including maintenance, manufacturing, and design engineering of TF30 gas turbine engines. Once Paul established himself as a design engineering specialist in maintaining TAE Aerospace’s Engineering Management System and regulatory compliance, his career pivoted from engineering specialist to engineering manager through a series of promotions in quick succession. Paul realised that he needed to invest in developing his leadership capabilities to leverage his engineering knowledge to advance from operational management roles to a strategic leader. After completing his Project Management Diploma and MBA at UniSQ, Paul’s trajectory was realised. Paul is now the COO for TAE Aerospace where he leads over 250 staff globally. Paul is committed to supporting and nurturing his staff through continuous development and has a strong belief in investing in growing the regions and developing a thriving ecosystem that is sustainable and scalable.