Scholarship recipients with the VC, Patricia M. Davidson

Young minds for the bright future of the Illawarra

Young minds for the bright future of the Illawarra

A generous UOW scholarship has been awarded to outstanding young leaders from the region

Cushioned between the towering escarpment and pristine ocean, the University of Wollongong (UOW) is not only one of the region's largest employers but a vital source of research and innovation for the whole country. As one of Australia's top universities, UOW's mission is to nurture young leaders for the benefit of the wider community.

That's why the timing for the announcement of the new UOW scholarship could not be more powerful. After the turbulent two years during which we've witnessed the pandemic putting the whole world on a standstill, UOW's Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia M. Davidson launched the Vice-Chancellor's Leadership Scholarship. Awarded annually, the generous stipend aims to inspire new generations of young, local, passionate leaders from the Illawarra and surrounding areas and give them the knowledge, skills and worldviews to be the future change-makers for the region and beyond.

This year's cohort of 11 young students – the first in the history of the scholarship – has just been honoured and celebrated during an intimate ceremony on the Wollongong campus.

“Each of you proved exceptional qualities in leadership, academic success, an eagerness to inspire greatness, initiative and a desire to create positive change. You are our future leaders, and we want to help you be the best you can be,” Professor Davidson told the scholars.

“As a proud UOW Alumna, I have been where you are, ready to take on this next exciting adventure. Ready to expand, learn more about the world, make new friends, grow as an individual and join a new community.”

The awarded students hail from many parts of the Illawarra and will pursue a wide range of degrees.

Felicity Dowd from Bega High School is one of the inaugural Leadership Scholars and will study a double degree: a Bachelor of Creative Arts and a Bachelor of Communication and Media.

Student with guitar

“I cried when I got the call from the VC, it was a very special moment. I am honoured to become a part of such a smart and diverse crowd,” she said. Felicity, a guitarist and folk singer-songwriter, wants to leave her mark on society by transcribing and immortalising marginalised people's voices.

“In the future, I want to use my musical skills and the knowledge of media and communications to help people get through various life challenges. Maybe I'll become a musician or a music journalist, or both, I'm not sure yet,” Felicity said.

Another VC Leadership Scholar is Jaida Way from Woonona High School, who – upon learning about her success – first called her school's principal to share the news. At UOW, she will study a Bachelor of Pre-Medicine, Science and Health.

Student at UOW Library

“I will be the first in my family to get a university degree. I can't wait to become a doctor one day and work at the Wollongong Hospital. Maybe I'll end up working with kids as a paediatrician. One thing is sure: I'd love to stay in the Illawarra to help people in the community that I have grown up in,” Jaida said.

Another promising young Illawarra local is Arthur White from Smith's Hill High School in Wollongong, who has just started his Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts degrees.

“I've always had a passion for justice, so studying law feels like a natural choice,” Arthur said.

“In the future, I want to work in political commentary and journalism. Between climate change, the pandemic, unaffordable housing and a myriad of other issues, there's a lot of uncertainty for young people in Australia.

“At UOW, I see myself getting involved in climate activism, and as a leadership scholar, I would want to encourage all students to take action on issues they care about.”

UOW Vice-Chancellor Leadership Scholarship recipients:

  • Layla Tarhan, Bachelor of International Studies, Bachelor of Laws, St Mary's Star of the Sea College, Wollongong.
  • Arthur White, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws, Smith's Hill High School, Wollongong.
  • Lauren Ashcroft, Bachelor of Medical Biotechnology (Honours, Dean's Scholar), Smith's Hill High School, Wollongong.
  • Ella Young, Bachelor of Medical Biotechnology (Honours), Chevalier College, Bowral.
  • Pyper Marshall, Bachelor of Pre-Medicine, Science and Health, Smith's Hill High School, Wollongong.
  • Jaida Way, Bachelor of Pre-Medicine, Science and Health, Woonona High School.
  • Alexander Stevenson, Bachelor of Communication and Media, Bachelor of Science, Smith's Hill High School, Wollongong.
  • Madeleine McPherson, Bachelor of Social Science, Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts.
  • Kataya Mccormack, Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Bachelor of Laws, Bega High School.
  • Emily Hinder, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws, Daramalan College, ACT (born and raised in Bungendore).
  • Felicity Dowd, Bachelor of Creative Arts, Bachelor of Communication and Media, Bega High School


The Vice-Chancellor's Leadership Scholarship is valued at $30,000 per year and awarded for the length of a student's undergraduate degree program (when studying full-time). Each scholar also gets the chance to undertake a series of inspiring leadership training seminars, starting with the Jindaola Indigenous culture program. Additionally, the scholars receive academic and industry mentorship and will be invited to attend networking, leadership and global study opportunities to foster their skills as future leaders.