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From revolutionising how school yard bullying is approached, to closing the gap on First Nations health outcomes, to creating leadership pathways – there’s no doubt that the recipients of the 2021 Alumnus of the Year Awards are worthy applicants.

Some of the University of Southern Queensland’s most outstanding alumni were honoured at a ceremony in Toowoomba on October 28.

Rachel Downie was named the 2021 University of Southern Queensland Alumnus of the Year and Outstanding Alumnus in Education.

A graduate of USQ’s Bachelor of Education in 1991, and currently completing a USQ Master of Education, Rachel is the CEO of Stymie – an anonymous online reporting tool for high school students to access help, or ask for help for a friend.

“I became an educator because I wanted to help young people flourish and I’ve always seen the time I spend with young people as a privilege,” Rachel said.

“A number of years ago a Year 9 boy under my care died by suicide and the event made me realise that on some level, kids have stopped speaking to us grown-ups when they feel unsafe.

“What we found out after this boy had died was that he was experiencing family violence and bullying at school and a whole heap of other issues that we had no idea about and to this day I honestly believe that if we had had that information – we would have been able to help him.”

Today, Stymie operates in schools around Australia as well in New Zealand and the UAE, with plans to expand.

“Getting into USQ really changed my life and I really found my people for the first time in my life. Being there meant so much to me 30 years ago – to be recognised in this way 30 years on feels like a big deal for me.”

2021 Young Alumnus of the Year and Outstanding Alumnus in Law and Justice: Angus Murray

Angus Murray is currently a Partner and Trademarks Attorney at Brisbane-based law firm, Irish Bentley Lawyers. Graduating from the University of Southern Queensland with a Bachelor of Laws in 2012, Angus was the Founder of the Law Society of the University of Southern Queensland and for the past three years has been a lecturer within USQ’s Law School for whom he wrote the Emerging Legal Tech and Practice course. Angus is also the Vice President of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, a Co-Founder and Director of The Legal Forecast, and the Chair of Electronic Frontiers Australia’s Policy and Research Committee.

2021 Outstanding Alumnus in Health & Wellbeing: Sherry Holzapfel

Sherry Holzapfel has made a career out of putting the physical, social and emotional well-being of her health clients first, and maintaining a commitment to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Queensland.

A two-time graduate of the University of Southern Queensland, Sherry has completed a Bachelor of Nursing and a Master of Midwifery.

Currently the Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health for the Metro North Health Service in Brisbane, Sherry has also served as the Primary Health Services Manager on Palm Island in north Queensland, as well as other management roles with Indigenous health services through the state.

2021 Outstanding Alumnus in Science & Engineering: Nathan Thomas

Nathan Thomas has earned himself a reputation as an experienced leader that transforms teams and businesses to deliver improved performance and growth.

As the Director of Service Delivery for HR software company Tambla Limited, Nathan manages all facets of the service delivery operations, has led the implementation of the company’s Project Delivery Office and the Change Advisory Board, and improved customer satisfaction ratings.

His current role is supported by years of management experience, including as the CEO for Integrated Payment Technologies Limited – where he assisted the company being listed on the Australia Stock Exchange – and as the Storage and Big Data Consulting Practice Manager (South Pacific) for tech giant, Hewlett Packard (Enterprise).

A dual Australian Olympian, Nathan also competed in water polo at the Sydney 2000 games and the Athens 2004 games, and played more than 300 games for the Australian Water Polo Team.

2021 Outstanding Alumnus in Business & Enterprise: Sally Foley-Lewis

Sally is a proud double graduate of the University of Southern Queensland, having obtained her Graduate Diploma in Management in 2001 and her MBA in 2005. Sally is a productivity and leadership expert that has combined her skills from more than 20 years of management, and experience as a CEO, to dedicate her career to helping professionals achieve their goals and master their leadership skills.

Since 2010, Sally has directed her own company, focused on helping managers lead through executive coaching. An author of five books, Sally works with clients from a wide range of industries, including banking and finance and legal sectors, government departments, corporate companies and community groups. Having worked in the Middle East, including as a Trade Consultant for Austrade, and in Germany, Asia and across Australia, Sally is a sought-after presenter and executive coach. 

2021 Outstanding Alumnus in Creative Industries & Humanities: Lauren Stuart

A Bachelor of Theatre Arts graduate, with a major in Acting, Lauren Stuart has built a successful career in the limelight and ensuring others can find their time to shine, too. Lauren’s career to date boasts years with Australia Zoo as the Entertainment Coordinator and Media Spokesperson, as a Lead Brand Ambassador for Octagon Australia and nearly a decade with the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), working for NIDA’s corporate arm as a course manager, event specialist and eventually, Head of Department. In 2021, Lauren launched her own business, Lauren Elle Celebrant, designing and delivering bespoke ceremonies for weddings, funerals, vow renewals, baby namings and other events.

Other alumni honoured during this event include: 

Highly Commended Alumnus in Business & Enterprise, Dhamitha Pathirana; Highly Commended Alumnus in Law & Justice, Kathleen Wincen; Highly Commended Alumnus in Health & Wellbeing, Amanda Ullman; and Highly Commended Young Alumnus of the Year, Adrian Dudok.