An academically brilliant and community-minded student from CASS is the latest recipient of the Australian National University's oldest and most prestigious prize.
Eleanor Armstrong, who recently graduated with First Class Honours for the Bachelor of Philosophy (PhB), and a Diploma of Languages, received the 2020 Tillyard Prize. The award is given to an Honours student whose personal qualities and contribution to University life have been outstanding.
She was put forward by Dr Sean Perera, the convenor of the PhB; a research-intensive program for high-achieving students. In his recommendation statement, Dr Perera describes Eleanor as “a meticulous researcher, as well as a thoughtful and amicable individual”.
“I was very grateful to my nominees and my referees, and how much they mentored me – but also how much they saw in me,” Eleanor says.
She undertook four research projects through her PhB, investigating the social construction of autism as a disorder, the relationship between sport (most notably cricket) and the Australian identity, the socio-cultural significance of snakes to Australia, and canine companionship models in the military. A fifth research project was conducted through the Australian National Internships Program, where Eleanor was based at the Department of Education and Training. There, Eleanor looked at cyberbullying prevention and education programs for the “tween” demographic.
“Doing the PhB was a really wonderful opportunity to pursue my passions, but also get to know what life was like in the research community at the University beyond undergraduate classwork,” Eleanor says. She expresses how that was key in preparing her for her environmental sociology thesis, which examined community wildlife conservation efforts after the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires.
In her Diploma of Languages, which she did concurrently with the PhB, Eleanor took a minor in advanced French – which saw her attain near-fluency in the language – and introductory German. She made use of both during her 2019 semester abroad at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, which she undertook through ANU Global Programs.
“Ms Armstrong is respected, valued and admired by her peers and the academic staff at ANU,” Dr Perera says in his statement. “And as the additional reference from Dr Marisa Paterson MLA attests, Ms Armstrong is conscientious about giving back to the community.”
For Eleanor, university was not just about academia, as, in her words, “it's about the people you meet, the things you do outside of the classroom”. As she goes on to say, “that was a big part of my ANU journey as well. So, to have that kind of support and recognition of that was a huge honour.”
To that point, across Eleanor's five years at The Australian National University, she not only threw herself wholeheartedly into academic life but also contributed enormously to the campus and her fellow students. As a recipient of the National University Scholarship, Eleanor was motivated to give back to the University as well as pay it forward for future students. This took the form of two of the roles she undertook, hitting the phones four years straight with ANU Giving, encouraging alumni and major figures in the university community to support ANU scholarships and grants, as well as serving as a CASS Student Ambassador for three years to encourage future students to come to ANU. Beyond those two positions, she also completed the ANU+ program, which saw her completing 100 hours of volunteering with organisations varying from mental health advocacy to mentoring new students.
“It can be a slog being on the phones and doing admin work. And I know for a lot of volunteers on campus, there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes and it's not about being the face of those campaigns,” Eleanor says. “It's making little differences here and there that you hope add up to something that comes even close to the support that the university gave you.”
It's beneficial to be involved in university life beyond just studying, and Eleanor acknowledges that that for many students, this is often only possible if you have the means or capacity to do so.
“The National University Scholarship was a huge part of me being able to participate in campus life because, had I not received that scholarship, I know for sure I would have needed to be working a lot more than I already was to cover living expenses,” Eleanor says. “If you are lucky enough to have the means to get involved, that's a major factor in being able to contribute.”
“I'm always conscious about how lucky I was to come here to ANU. And if I can give little bits of that back any way I can, I absolutely will.”
She laughs; corrects herself. “Oh, I can't anymore, I've left. But, that was what I felt during my time there.”
Eleanor will shortly be commencing as an Associate Consultant with the Boston Consulting Group.
“It will be interesting to go into an environment where all the skills you've been preparing for your entire education are put to the test,” Eleanor says. “I think it'll be a nice combination of the skills I developed in Sociology and in CASS more broadly, but also the kind of real-world experience I acquired on campus and beyond during my ANU years.”
Written by Evana Ho / ANU