UOW Graduate Adrian Pittman stands in a blue graduation gown and cap. He wears glasses and smiles at the camera.

Reluctant university student turned academic standout

Reluctant university student turned academic standout

Adrian Pittman found his place at UOW Bega Valley

Adrian Pittman did not expect to fall in love with sociology. It was, as he describes it, “completely by accident”.

He was apprehensive about university altogether, after a tough time at high school, but after moving to the Far South Coast decided to apply to the University of Wollongong (UOW) Bega Valley.

Drawn to English Literature, a subject he loved at school, Adrian chose to also study sociology as part of his Bachelor of Arts (Honours), simply because it suited his timetable.

“I picked it and I ended up falling in love with it,” said Adrian. “It was an accident but a very happy accident.

“English was the one thing that I was naturally good at in high school so that was an easy decision. When I went to the first sociology class, it focused on so many of the things that I’m interested in. It was about asking questions about society and all those things we assume to be social norms.

“I am a trans man, and I wasn’t out at uni at the time, but it really appealed to me because

sociology involved questioning assumptions that are taken for granted that I was also questioning at the time, like ‘Why is this like that? Where does that come from? Why does it work this way?’”

This week (Tuesday 23 January), Adrian is celebrating his graduation from UOW with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), majoring in Sociology. He was joined by his family at the ceremony at Bega Civic Centre for the UOW Bega Valley graduates. It was an incredibly proud moment for Adrian, who said he initially found the idea of attending university intimidating.

“My family all moved to the Bega Valley in 2018 and I kept wondering what I wanted to do. Any time we would drive past the UOW Bega Valley Campus, I tentatively thought about it. When I started, I went through the summer pathways program, but I had one foot out the door because I still wasn’t sure.

“I wanted to study on campus because I thought it would be better for me than studying online. But two weeks after I enrolled in my Bachelor of Arts, COVID hit and we had to go home.”

Adrian persevered online and, despite his initial hesitations, it seems he truly found his place at UOW Bega Valley. He has thrived academically, achieving outstanding results throughout the course of his degree. In 2021 and 2022, he was named on the Dean’s Merit List; the following year, he received the UOW Alumni Bookshop Award as the highest-ranked student entering the final year of a degree in the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry. He has also been the recipient of a UOW Equity Scholarship as well as Academic Achievement Certificates in 2021 and 2022 for being first in many of his subjects.

Once he had established himself at UOW Bega Valley, Adrian also decided to pay it forward by supporting other students. Becoming a Peer Success Coach, Adrian helped new students with study and self-care techniques, including managing study loads, finding and accessing academic and general university resources, and building the foundational skills needed to do well at university.

He is passionate about the importance of mental health for students and ensure that students have a voice in the university process. To that end, Adrian was a Co-Chair on the Student Equity Working Group, providing an insight in to how to improve the student experience at regional campuses as well as how to better support trans students. Outside of university, Adrian has become a volunteer Digital Crisis Supporter for Lifeline.

It is clear Adrian has become a vital part of the UOW Bega Valley community. He thanked the staff at the regional campus for making him feel so valued and welcome.

“Being a regional campus, it’s easy to get to know each other because you see the same people every time you’re on campus. You get to know the other students and the staff.

“There are two people in particular who have been so amazing throughout my degree. Amelia Love [Campus Services Officer] is such a fantastic person. She helped me when I was undertaking the social part of transitioning, and she was supportive and kind and was excited for me. I really appreciated that.

“Sam Avitaia [Campus Manager] went above and beyond too. She always does so much for everyone. Her office door is always open and she really brings that community vibe to Bega.”

Adrian is thrilled to be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, but there is more study in his future. He will now undertake a PhD in sociology, with a focus on the use of Artificial Intelligence by different communities.