When 2017 Bowater Trust Medallist Brad Underhill decided to enrol at Deakin as a mature-age student it wasn’t to progress his career – he simply wanted to learn more about the topics that interested him.
‘My motivation was to study what I was most interested in which is society, culture and public policy. So it seemed natural to combine history, Australian studies and economics. These three topics are all related to socio-economic understandings of local and international issues,’ he says.
Winner of the prestigious Deakin Business School award, Brad completed an arts/commerce double degree in 2016 and is now working on an honours thesis that’s examining the cooperative movement in PNG and its contribution to post-war economic and social changes.
With an innate love of learning, Brad says there’s no greater pleasure than gaining greater insight into topics and events.
‘I feel privileged to know the nuances and have a deeper understanding of what really happened. The opportunity to dig deeply into a subject is most enjoyable,’ he says.
As well producing outstanding results throughout his undergraduate studies, Brad was an enthusiastic academic mentor, a member of the Deakin Commerce Students’ Society and a finalist in the 2014 nation-wide university competition The Big Idea where he helped develop a sustainable social enterprise business plan.
‘It was quite daunting but a great learning experience and it opened my eyes to the potential of working or beginning a social enterprise,’ he recalls. ‘My passion is to help people less fortunate than myself, especially disadvantaged children.’
The owner of a small Melbourne-based hospitality business, Brad is committed to social wellbeing and actively volunteers with several not-for-profit organisations.
‘Much of my time is spent in volunteer roles, most especially as a group leader and board member of a children’s camp, Licola Wilderness Village,’ he says.
While Brad began his studies as a way to expand his knowledge, he says it’s also provided him with a fresh perspective on life – and possibly the future.
‘When I came back to university as a mature-age student, I felt a whole new world opening up – different conversations and ideas from the mainstream. It gave me the opportunity to think and reflect and I love this aspect.’
Brad has donated back the $5000 prize money which has been matched by both the Bowater Trust and the Deakin Business School and will now be used as a scholarship to help disadvantaged students attend Deakin.
As a Bowater Trust Medal recipient, he is looking forward to tapping into new networks to help expand his community support work.
‘I hope it will open doors and introduce me to new opportunities and people who can help me achieve my goal of supporting disadvantaged youth. I feel that I am in the process of changing careers, the degrees are opening new doors and I have the opportunity to try new roles,’ he explains. ‘Whether I work at the coalface helping people, or at a more macro level helping to design and implement new programs, the education I have received from Deakin has enabled me this opportunity.’
Formerly known as the Bowater Medal and HS Archdall Medal, the Bowater Trust Medal is awarded annually to a Deakin Business School graduate who is considered to be the best all-round undergraduate student on the basis of academic merit, extra-curricular activities, and ambassadorial qualities.
Deakin Business School (DBS), in consultation with the Bowater Trust, shortlists the School's highest achieving graduates, who are then invited to make a submission to a panel comprised of DBS academic staff and a Bowater Trust representative. Final selection of the 'Deakin Business School Graduate of the Year' is made after an interview process.