Hannah Gason is a former cartographer who pursued her love of glass art at The Australian National University (ANU) for her second degree, and won the 2015 University Medal.
Hannah is the student speaker at the College of Arts and Social Science’s July graduation ceremony and will herself formally receive her Bachelor of Visual Arts (Glass) Hons. as she couldn’t attend in December 2015.
“I’m apprehensive about being the student speaker, but it’s an honour to be nominated,” Hannah says.
“My speech will focus on how everyone comes to university from all backgrounds, and that we don’t always follow the most direct path.
“I want to talk about how we’re always continuing to learn, even though you finish your studies. ANU really does prepare you for that – you learn so much.”
Originally from coastal Victoria, Hannah has taken every opportunity to confront her fear of public speaking, and to practice her art.
“I did a public speaking for women course before coming to the ANU, but actually found that coming to uni and with this degree, there are lots of opportunities to speak publicly,” she explains.
“I don’t really enjoy it, but it’s a good skill to have. You learn a lot from the pressure of having to speak in front of people, having to consider what you want to say.
“I still get nervous, but I can see the rewards from it.”
Those rewards include being part of the Reflections exhibition showing at Parliament House, featuring works by Canberra Glassworks artists.
Hannah studied horticulture initially at RMIT University, but soon switched to multimedia cartography. In 2006 she moved to Canberra to begin a mapmaking job at ANU. She dedicated her spare hours to creating glass art.
“I was working with glass on weekends and evenings, and the more I did it, the more I loved it,” Hannah recalls.
“I decided a visual arts degree was the right move for me. It was a big decision, but I am so glad I did.”
Head of the ANU Glass Workshop, Associate Professor Richard Whiteley, says he nominated Hannah for the University Medal because she showed accomplishments beyond her glass courses.
She continually sought challenges, looked to develop her research methods, and built upon her predecessors’ processes including workshop founder, Klaus Moje.
“She’d get to a level, look to other things that she’d dutifully research and unpack, continually pushing those layers in a sustained way,” Richard says.
Outside of university, Hannah has received several opportunities and awards, including being curated into professional exhibitions and had her work purchased for the national glass art collection – a rare feat for an undergraduate, Richard adds.
“She was a delight to work with, and was always very focussed on her studies.
“Her burning ambition was to develop her voice as an artist and every semester she’d push herself.
“The professional success she’s had since leaving is a testament to how hard and consistently she’s worked.”