PhD student graduates against the odds

September 15, 2011

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L to R: Dr Sofia Fisher and Dr Liana Christensen

L to R: Dr Sofia Fisher and Dr Liana Christensen

A Murdoch University student has graduated with a PhD in Psychology despite leaving school with barely any formal education at all.

Dr Sofia Fisher is now the Senior Psychologist and Officer in Charge for the Department of Defence’s Mental Healthy Psychology Section.

She is an expert in the psychology of violent offending and self-harmful behaviour, and sits on a number of committees within the Australian Defence Force.

“When I entered uni I didn’t have any academic background – I didn’t even pass school really,” Dr Fisher said.

Despite her lack of formal education, Dr Fisher gained entry to Murdoch’s preparatory course for the Special Tertiary Admissions Test.

Her success in the course led to her progressing to Uni Quest, Murdoch’s pioneering equity entry program.

Despite her early aptitude, it was a difficult journey, with many basic concepts out of reach.

“I remember entering the classroom and seeing all these squiggles on the board, and I didn’t know what they were – of course it was algebra,” Dr Fisher said.

“Another time, I was asked the difference between party, parties and party’s.

“I could only think that it had something to do with the number of people who came to the party.”

Dr Fisher transferred to Edith Cowan University to study criminology, where she completed her Bachelor degree and Honours, before transferring back to Murdoch to complete her PhD.

“It’s quite amazing to think that I started not know these quite basic things, and now I’m Dr Sofia,” she said.

Dr Liana Christensen, former Equity Tutor at Murdoch University, has watched and guided Dr Fisher’s progress throughout the journey.

“As soon as I met her I had a sense of her towering potential,” Dr Christensen said.

“I’ve watched as she’s overcome internal and external obstacles with a combination of sheer smarts, dogged perseverance and willingness to take advice and learn.”

Dr Christensen points to Dr Fisher’s success as an example of how equity programs can help those for whom a university education seems completely out of reach.

“Think of all that ability that might have gone to waste.

“University has seemed an impossible dream for so many, yet Sofia’s story shows how very possible it is and how much we all gain when people are given a second chance at education.”

Media contact: Jo Manning
Tel: (08) 9360 2474  |  Mobile: 0408 201 309  |  Email: j.manning@murdoch.edu.au
Categories: Domestic students, General, Murdoch achievements, Teaching and Learning
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