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Business graduate’s background inspires desire to change the world

Jozo Frankovic aims to combine philanthropy with future in business

Jozo Frankovic knows just how powerful education can be when it comes to changing someone’s life.

The University of Wollongong student arrived in Australia at the age of four, having left his birthplace in Germany with his family following the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s.

Jozo, who today graduated from UOW with a Bachelor of Commerce (Dean’s Scholar), majoring in Accounting and Finance, said education allowed him to create a new life and forge new opportunities in his adopted home.

“I have a real passion for education,” Jozo said. “It opened doors for me, as a refugee, and I would really love to make a difference in the world through educating others.”

Jozo had originally aimed to be a doctor or a dentist, but when he realised he couldn’t stand the sight of blood, he needed a Plan B.

Having always enjoyed economics at high school, he decided to pursue a degree in finance. It was during a trip to Colombia for an international young leaders conference this year that Jozo realised he could combine his business acumen with his altruism to effect change.

“I went to Bogota as part of the One Young World Summit, which brings together young leaders from all over world, and it was a really humbling, life-changing experience,” Jozo said.

“There were speakers from business, politics, sports, and they were really thought-provoking. It showed me how many opportunities we have here in Australia while so many people around the world lack basic essentials. It exposed me to what’s happening around the world.

“Hearing from some of the speakers, such as Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, as well as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan made me realise that you can make a difference through business. It’s not just about profit.”

Helping others seems to come naturally to Jozo. During his five years at UOW, he has been a volunteer for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, and also is a mentor at SCARF, a community program that helps refugees to rebuild their lives in the Illawarra.

“After coming to Australia, we settled in Wollongong. Half of my mum’s family are now based in Australia,” Jozo said of his motivations for giving back to the refugee community. “But Dad’s family are still overseas. I am fluent in Croatian and speak it at home. The experience of being a refugee has really given me perspective.”

Jozo has also run music classes for children in Wollongong, teaching them how to play traditional Croatian string instruments, and is part of a number of bands and ensembles.

“I love music, so that doesn’t feel like work to me,” Jozo said. “And being able to connect with my Croatian heritage and with the Croatian community through music is really special.”

In 2015, Jozo’s music took him back to his roots. His ensemble toured the Croatian countryside and Bosnia and Herzegovina, often performing in villages where the instruments were originally crafted. The tour also saw him perform for the Croatian Prime Minister.

“I think it helped me to connect with my culture on a deeper level,” Jozo said.

In addition to his studies, Jozo has spent the past five years as part of the UOW Management Cadetship, which enables participants to work across the University while they are undertaking a degree, optimising their skills and providing them with the opportunity to take on internships and study abroad.

Combining full time work with full time study has been a juggling act for Jozo, and he admits that he has not had much time for relaxation. But he is finishing his degree with the knowledge that he seized every opportunity and relished every moment at UOW.

“I started here at Kids Uni [the childcare centre] so I feel like I have always had a connection to UOW,” he said. “I had family friends who went to UOW and they also spoke about what a great experience they had. It has been the same for me. I’ve had an incredible time at UOW and got to do so many different things.”

So what does the future, post graduation, hold for Jozo? Relaxation. For a little while, anyway.

“I’m going to take the summer off and relax, read books, spend time with friends. And I’ll take some time to decide what I want to do with my degree,” he said. Heading into 2018, Jozo intends to pursue his Honours degree in Finance at UOW.

“Going forward, I want to do something in education and business. I want to be part of an organisation that thinks beyond just the profit line. I want to leverage my business degree for a greater purpose.”