Jenny Rolfe-Wallace embodies many of the values that Charles Sturt University (CSU) stands for. She seeks to inspire people in her career and have a positive impact on many lives as an educator. And she’s been a part of the CSU community ever since starting her first degree in 1989. A University Medal winner – and also a former lecturer at the uni – Jenny is CSU through and through.
The first steps to success
Having done well academically at school, Jenny felt that university was the next logical step.
“I’m the youngest of seven kids and I was the first in my family to go to university. I was fortunate that from a young age I was nurtured by my parents and teachers in my studies. Being academically capable, and having the opportunity to go to uni, there was a certain (positive) expectation that my study would continue beyond Year 12 – and it was something I wanted to do.
“Originally, I had thought about going away to uni in the city, but my family simply couldn’t afford it, so CSU, being local, was an ideal choice. And attending a regional university has never been a disadvantage to my career.”
Jenny undertook a Bachelor of Business (Accountancy and Economics), although not without some reservations.
“I actually didn’t originally want to study accounting; I was all about economics, so I undertook the double degree as it enabled me to have a strong focus on my passion. But my first accounting tutor, Zvone Hribar, was so enthusiastic about teaching accounting that it was impossible not to be engaged and involved, so I found that I really liked accounting as well!”
Jenny graduated from her undergraduate degree with Distinction and the University Medal.
She returned to CSU in 1992 to complete a Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary Education and Teaching) – gaining another Distinction – while working as an associate lecturer in economics at CSU.
“I had applied for – and got – the associate lecturer position in the last semester of my bachelor’s degree. So I thought if I’m going to be teaching I should learn how to do it properly! That’s when I undertook the graduate diploma. And I found I loved teaching. I did my course placements in schools, which I loved, so after three years as a lecturer I moved to work as a teacher in the high school system.”
Mastering postgraduate study
While working as a secondary teacher, Jenny undertook a Master of Education at CSU, graduating in 2000. This was before the internet was everywhere, so she studied via traditional distance education (that’s post and phone).
Then – would you believe it – after a decade working in the financial services industry as a financial adviser and educator, Jenny returned to CSU in 2012 to study a fourth course! She graduated with a Graduate Certificate in Educational Research, focusing on financial literacy and capability. This one was undertaken online.
“What a difference from the old-school approach! Having chatrooms, forums, instant communications – CSU was able to replicate so much of the face-to-face interaction that comes with on-campus study. I could interact with other students and get instant responses – even from my lecturer who lived in Canada. And I could lodge my assignments online just before deadline, rather than having to make sure I got them in the post three days before!”
‘I was balancing study, full-time work and motherhood, and that had its own challenges, but there was flexibility in the course structure so that I could change pace as I needed.”
Being her own boss
At the beginning of 2018, Jenny started her own business, Sprout Education, running workshops for kids and adults focused on building financial knowledge, confidence and empowerment.
Her links to CSU continued to be useful at this time, as she received advice and support through the CSU AgriTech Incubator Hub, which helps to foster entrepreneurial activity in our regions when setting up.
“I’m doing exactly what I want to do, and what I love doing. I have great foundations in learning – my undergraduate degree still provides me with skills that I use to run my business – and a great professional network including people I studied with in each of my degrees at CSU.
“I’m really happy with how my career has progressed so far, and I feel I’ve made the most of my opportunities. I love teaching, and I feel it is a privilege to have that relationship with people and support them to make the most of their abilities and opportunities, to grow and change and achieve their dreams.”