Outstanding Alumni Awards - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Outstanding Alumni Awards

The recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Awards were officially announced at the awards evening on 24 October 2019 at USC Sunshine Coast.

Congratulations to all the 2019 nominees for their notable achievements to date. A special thank you goes to the people who took the time and effort to nominate them – fellow alumni, family, lecturers, colleagues and friends - without their support, this initiative wouldn’t be possible.

Nominations for the 2020 Outstanding Alumni Awards will be open from July 2020 with details of how to nominate updated here.

Enjoy the video highlights and photos from the awards evening.

And the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Award recipients are…

Outstanding Alumnus of the Year

Dr Sonia Marshall
Doctor of Philosophy 2010

When Sonia’s daughter Evie was born 14 years ago with incurable cystic fibrosis (CF), her life expectancy was 35 years. She was vulnerable to progressive and recurrent lung infections, poor growth, and chronic inflammation of the pancreas, liver, kidneys, and heart.

In August 2018, thanks to Sonia and her family working tirelessly for three years, and after three unsuccessful attempts, the CF drug ‘Orkambi’ was approved for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which meant the cost for patients to access this drug went from $250,000 a year to a maximum cost of $500 a year, and, added an extra 23 years of life.

Read Sonia's full profile

Constant home care, schooling, recurrent hospitalisation and economic and mental stress are now significantly reduced for over 1,300 CF patients and their families.

Sonia has also mentored more than 500 CF parents to develop coping strategies and strengthen support networks and has been recognised for her advocacy work by the Governor General of Australia. As the CEO of Cystic Fibrosis Australia, Nettie Smith, says, "every cause needs a superstar like Sonia".

Dr Marshall said she had driven positive change in public health and the local community using the communication techniques, research skills and “ability to think outside the square” gained during her USC doctorate in environmental interpretation from USC’s Sustainability Research Centre.

She is currently leading a UNESCO Biosphere nomination for the Sunshine Coast area, in her role with Sunshine Coast Council, and continuing to work on local environmental sustainability benchmarking. In 2017, she helped achieve carbon neutrality accreditation for Sunshine Coast Airport.

Dr Sonia Marsall
Andrew Fairbairn
Alumnus of the Year, Regional Achievement

Andrew Fairbairn
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) 2001

Since graduating from USC in 2001 with a Bachelor of Business (Marketing), Andrew Fairbairn has built a successful career in Australia and overseas in the tourism, marketing and destination development profession.

Andrew has worked in senior roles, leading sales and marketing teams, for Wotif Asia; and luxury hotel chains in Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Fiji and Sydney; getting his first break at the Sheraton Noosa, or Sofitel as it is now known.

Read Andrew's full profile

In 2017, Andrew returned home joining Visit Sunshine Coast, our regional tourism organisation, to lead the Industry Development team. His ability to collaborate with and unify 19 historically disconnected groups by creating the Sub-Regional Development Board, represented by eight key tourism regions, supporting them to identify and develop new tourism products and experiences, and deliver a wide range of marketing campaigns, has largely contributed to unprecedented visitation numbers for the Sunshine Coast.

"My degree gave me the passport of knowledge to travel the world and live and work in some of the most successful tourism destinations in Asia and then apply this valuable experience back on the Sunshine Coast,” said Andrew.

In the words of Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford, "without Andrew’s ability to lead the highly complex, ground-up development of the Sub-Regional Development Board, we wouldn’t be in the extraordinary position we are today, posting in July this year, eight all-time visitation records, including a 34% increase in business and an all-time record for visitor spend in Queensland."

Alumnus of the Year, Rising Star

LCDR Thomas Miller
Bachelor of Nursing 2010
Master of Advanced Practice (Emergency Care) 2016

Lieutenant Commander Miller is a full-time specialist Emergency Nursing Officer with the Royal Australian Navy who was sponsored by the Australian Defence Force to complete his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at USC.

He has recently returned from military operations in the Middle East where he was selected to be Commander of Nursing for the Military Hospital and the Officer in Command of the Emergency Department at one of the largest military bases in Kabul, Afghanistan. This involved coordinating the activities of an emergency department in the centre of a warzone with clinicians from over twelve countries.

Read Thomas' full profile

Thomas has also been a Senior Nursing Officer for Tactical Trauma Teams and Head of Department of Australia’s Maritime Emergency and Resuscitation Capability for Operation Fiji Assist after Tropical Cyclone Winston, as well other operational deployments across Australia and overseas.

Recently, Thomas was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, and based on his past performance, has been given a new role as Head of Nurse Education for the Royal Australian Navy where he oversees all nursing education, including the development of new training pathways for all nurses entering the Navy.

Thomas was awarded his Fellowship from of the College of Emergency Nurses Australasia recognising his substantial contribution to and professional excellence in emergency nursing.

Thomas Miller

2019 Outstanding Alumni Awards