UOW graduate Molly Lasker wears a blue graduation gown and cap in front of Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre. Photo: Michael Gray

How social sciences graduate achieved outstanding thesis results

How social sciences graduate achieved outstanding thesis results

Molly Lasker said support of supervisors essential to receiving high distinction

Molly Lasker has just completed her degree, but she knows that she is not finished studying.

The University of Wollongong (UOW) Shoalhaven student, who celebrated her graduation this week (Thursday 25 January) with a Bachelor of Social Science (Honours), majoring in Human Geography, is for now enjoying a bit of down time after years of studying, but is aiming to jump back in with a PhD.

“I just loved university, I feel like I am not done with learning,” Molly says.

It has been a long road to graduation for Molly, who initially began a degree in creative writing eight years ago and got much of the way through.

However, it wasn’t exactly what she wanted to do, and after hearing about the field of human geography – a discipline that studies the intersection of people and place, and their relationship to social and environmental conflicts – Molly decided to change direction.

At the same time, she shifted location from Wollongong, where she was studying at the campus, and decided to instead study at UOW Shoalhaven, the area where she grew up.

Both decisions were absolutely the right ones, Molly says now.

“I loved studying at UOW Shoalhaven. There is a real sense of community. The people studying are often multitasking and juggling lots of other things in their lives, like work and children and caring responsibilities, so it feels like there’s a lot more understanding and flexibility around having those competing priorities,” says Molly, who owns Spaghetti Junction, a vintage and second-hand clothing shop in Nowra.

“The Shoalhaven is such a beautiful part of the world and it’s much more affordable and easier to commute to for students. Studying at a regional campus afford me the time and opportunity to open my own business while juggling my studies without being too stressed.”

Throughout her degree, Molly seized every opportunity to combine her love of travel with her passion for human geography. In 2020, she was named a New Colombo Plan Scholar, as part of a Federal Government initiative that encourages and supports Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Molly had planned to spend nine months of 2021 in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, however, some logistical issues meant her trip was shortened to a few months. An intern with VietHarvest, a social enterprise that aims to reduce food waste, hunger and poverty in the South East Asian country, Molly says it was an eye-opening experience. In particular, she was delighted to be a social science student taking part in the cultural exchange.

“There is such a focus on STEM subjects that it was great to be able to show others that the social sciences are just as important as degrees in the hard sciences and mathematics.”

UOW graduate Molly Lasker wears a blue graduation gown and cap in front of Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre. Photo: Michael Gray

Two months after returning from Vietnam, Molly was again given the opportunity to travel, this time to India, as part of a human geography subject on fieldwork funded under a different thread of the New Colombo Plan.

“I really recommend this subject and it’s open to everyone, which is not the case with the New Colombo Plan. It was such an incredible experience.”

After completing the Bachelor of Social Science, Molly decided to take on an Honours year, this time directing her attention to a different area of the Asia-Pacific region – the tiny island nation of Tuvalu. Under the supervision of Dr Rachel Loney-Howes and Dr Cammi Gannon-Webb, both from the School of Health and Safety, Molly focused on how Tuvalu, a nation on the frontlines of rising sea levels, was using the metaverse to cope with the impending concerns of climate change.

While completing the honours thesis was tough at times, Molly says her supervisors pushed her to achieve her best. And that is exactly what she did, receiving an incredible final mark of 94 for the project.

“I wanted to give up at times because it was tough, but I am so thankful for the support of Rachel and Cammi. They knew what I was capable of and really helped me to get there.”

Molly will spend the next year tutoring in the School of Health and Society but is aiming to immerse herself again in the world of research with a PhD. She is not sure whether she will extend upon her Honours thesis or explore a new topic, but what is clear is that she is excited about the new chapter of her university experience.

“I am really excited about a PhD. My Honours thesis and my time in the New Colombo Plan gave me a real passion for the Asia Pacific region but I’m also interested in looking at issues of sovereignty, colonisation, and climate change. 

“I love UOW. I don’t feel like I am finished studying yet but other universities don’t interest me as much as the many avenues that are available at UOW.”