It’s not every day you get the opportunity to meet a princess however former John Therry student, Tennille Vitagliano, did just that when she was awarded the prestigious Crown Princess Mary Scholarship from the University of Copenhagen for her research in the field of immunology.
The Crown Princess Mary Scholarship was created in connection with the royal wedding between the Crown Princess and the Crown Prince Frederik on 14 May 2004. The scholarship provides recipients with $2000 towards the cost of their studies. The University of Copenhagen received a total of 13 well written and well-motivated applications from Australian exchange students this year and according to the University's Rector, Henrik C. Wegener, a strong field of applicants had strengthened the competition especially this year.
Having completed a Bachelor of Medical Science at Western Sydney University, Tennille is currently finishing the coursework year of her Master of Research, undertaken as part of her exchange at the University of Copenhagen. Tennille will then return home to Australia from Denmark to complete her final thesis year.
Tennille extensively researched universities teaching immunology-based subjects at a world class level, which led her to discover the University of Copenhagen. “I selected the university to be my host not only due to its strong academic record, but also due to how actively they encourage integration of education and research,” Tennille said. “This notion is one of my core values, therefore I am extremely privileged to be part of an institution who understands the importance of my motivation for academic excellence.”
Tennille’s thesis explores the way the human body works in relation to healing. “I wholeheartedly stepped into a Master of Research with the intent to pursue an ambitious thesis regarding genetic evolution and wound healing in humans. I’m aiming to build a case for the existence of injury-induced enhancers that activate pro-inflammatory gene pathways.”
Tennille attended John Therry, Rosemeadow from Years 7 to 10 and said the John Therry staff always encouraged her to perform at her own personal best. “I have very fond memories of Mr Peters, Ms Hynard, Ms Conte and Ms Martinez, they’re all wonderful teachers and I thank them for how they inspired me.
“I wasn’t exceptional at science in high school but loved the challenge that came with wanting to understand how things work, together with an interest in the human body. Finding medical science at university was the missing piece to the puzzle I didn’t know existed," she said.
“I discovered an avid interest in immunology, a passion that transcended into pursuing a master’s degree. I also aimed to take my personal development to a new level and sought to work for Graduates of League (academic mentoring for high-grade football students), signed up as a Safety Officer for Western Sydney Racing, and joined the WiSE Program (Women in Science and Engineering).”
Professor James Arvanitakis, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Graduate Studies) at Western Sydney University, said the Master of Research is an interdisciplinary degree that provides students with the opportunity to develop solid foundations for a robust research career in academia, industry and government.
“Securing the Crown Princess Mary Scholarship is a significant achievement. In taking her research ideas to the University of Copenhagen, Tennille has created the opportunity to advance her project through the input and support of leading, international experts,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming Tennille back to Western Sydney University, so that her peers in the Master of Research program can also benefit from her exchange experience.”
Tennille said receiving the scholarship and meeting Princess Mary was an honour. “It was a privilege to be selected for such a prestigious scholarship. Princess Mary is a fantastic advocate for access to education for young people. My own personal motivation for studying at the University of Copenhagen was to develop myself into the type of person who isn’t afraid to dream big!”
For Tennille, her stay at the University of Copenhagen is based on academic and social motivation. In addition to being a student at the university, societal involvement and being part of the Copenhagen youth culture has been pivotal, acting as an important motivator for Tennille to work towards making science accessible to younger generations and inspiring them to pursue further education.
When commencing her bachelor studies, Tennille volunteered as a student ambassador with the Fast Forward Program, a partnership between Western Sydney University and Western Sydney schools - inclusive of student participation from John Therry, Rosemeadow and Mount Carmel, Varroville.
Fast Forward encourages high school students from low socioeconomic schools to pursue their goals towards higher education. It aims to bridge the gap between students and their circumstances that might impair their chances to seek further schooling. Fast Forward is a university-developed program that inspires and motivates students from Years 9 to 12, with student ambassadors playing a key role in sharing their educational journeys and experiences.
“Being from a similar background myself, and knowing the fear of doubting one’s ability to achieve university entry, I was immediately empathetic to the cause and signed up,” Tennille said. “This program has truly made an impact in developing the knowledge, confidence, and skills of students to educational attainment.
“Undeniably, there is great value in nurturing not only the self-esteem of adolescents, but facilitating an educational environment focused on setting goals for success after high school.”
For the John Therry staff familiar with Tennille, they are extremely proud including former teacher, Ann Conte “Tennille was a quiet and dedicated student. You could always guarantee that she would work to the best of her ability on any set task in class and her academic achievements were significant. In Year 10 (2011), Tennille shared the Spiritus Sanctus Award as a student who is guided by the Holy Spirit to show wisdom, compassion, humility and respect in their actions and words.”
Tennille offered the following advice for our students: “Sometimes it’s hard to know what you want to do when you finish school. The best way to find out is by looking into what makes you happy, what you’re passionate about - your school teachers and coordinators can assist with this. I chased wanting to understand the human body and stumbled upon an area I couldn't be happier with. Take all opportunities, even when they scare you, they’re usually the best ones!”
We extend our congratulations to Tennille as she immerses herself in this fantastic educational experience.