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Passion for creative arts inspires University Medallist

Degree encourages acting student to pursue career behind the scenes

When Steffanni Gardener began her creative arts degree she was aiming for a career on the stage.

Growing up in Cowra, in the New South Wales Central West, she took any opportunity to act, and when she realised she could study performance at university, she leaped at the chance.

“It was a no brainer,” Steffanni said of her decision to pursue acting and performance. “Acting was my only passion. I grew up in a regional town and acting was something that was readily available to me. I did it as a hobby and at school. I came to UOW and started a Bachelor of Creative Arts, with a double majoring in Theatre and English Literature, thinking I could become a teacher, but the lure of the arts was too strong.”

Four years later, Steffanni’s passion for performance hasn’t dimmed, but her degree has exposed her to another world of creative arts she had never considered: behind the scenes.

“My degree focused on giving you the skills to be a performer, but it also looked at directing, management and curating performances,” said Steffanni, who today (Tuesday 17 April) graduated from UOW with a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Honours).

“It also opened a big door for me, because I was exposed to the management world of the creative arts. I realised I could be a leader for the creative arts. I really enjoyed that world, much more than acting.”

Steffanni was honoured today with the University Medal from the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, and also delivered the student remarks at the graduation celebration.

Receiving the medal was an honour, but one she had never expected.

“It’s a big day, but it didn’t dawn on me until I got to the ceremony,” she said. “I’ve never seen myself as someone who is academic, and my fellow students were incredibly bright, so it’s a real privilege to receive the University Medal.

“It’s a credit to my two Honours supervisors, Tim Maddock and Margaret Hamilton [from UOW’s School of the Arts, English and Media], who really vouched for me. I really appreciate their belief in me.

“All my teams in the School of the Arts, English and Media were really supportive and generous with their time throughout my degree.”

Steffanni was effusive in her praise of the Bachelor of Creative Arts and said the amount of support provided to the students was just enough to help them along the way, while at the same time encouraging them to work hard to achieve their dreams.

“I think the degree was the perfect amount of challenge and support, without sugar-coating how tough it can be out there. The lecturers taught us that if you want something, you have to work for it.”

Steffanni is now aiming for a management role in the creative industries, and said her love for the world of creative arts has only grown during her time at UOW.

Delivering the student remarks at her graduation ceremony this afternoon (Tuesday 17 April), Steffanni told the cohort that now was the time to have confidence in their abilities and what they can bring to the world.

“Most people often feel like they don’t have much to offer, like they are less than. But we all have the skills to be more than, we just need to find that within ourselves.”