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Campus News : December 2011
10 Campus News December 2011 University of Wollongong www.uow.edu.au DR JEANNIE HIGGINS Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) Honours 1979 PhD (Clinical Psychology) 1996 Clinical Psychologist Dr Jeannie Higgins has seen first- hand the effects of the damage human beings can inflict on each other, from traumatised war veterans to victims of rape and criminal assault. She has been so inspired by the courage and tenacity of people who survive and even thrive as they overcome these experiences that she has written a book to help others follow the same path to recovery. In Evolve with trauma: Become your own safe, compassionate and wise friend, Dr Higgins talks with trauma survivors and their families about their experiences and seeks to demystify what is known about effectively responding to the negative impact of potentially traumatic events. "The inspiration for this book is to break the silence of frozen terror, invisibility, repeated violation and entrapment," Dr Higgins said. "It aims to create hope, power, control and to provide information and resources for discerning action. It responds directly to very hurt people through the questions they are actually asking, rather than the questions researchers or clinicians often want, or know how to answer. "The book is an invitation to flourish as an inherently precious and worthy being even within the reality of profound devastation and loss." Canberra-based Dr Higgins has over 30 years experience in clinical, research, community and policy settings, since graduating from UOW in 1979 with an Honours degree in Psychology. She researched gambling behaviour with a focus on compulsive poker machine playing for her Honours thesis, supervised by Professor Alex Clarke. She later returned to do her PhD under Associate Professor Linda Viney, undertaking a comprehensive review of sociological and psychological perspectives in stress and trauma experienced by police officers. Dr Higgins grew up in Wollongong, and turned down an early entry offer from the Australian National University to enrol at UOW in 1975 -- its first year as an autonomous university after previously being a college of the University of NSW. She has positive memories of her time as an undergraduate at the fledgling university. "I had the most amazing time studying at UOW. We were a very close group across all disciplines and I thrived on being a part of it all," she remembers. "Tertiary education was free for the first time ever - thanks to Gough Whitlam! The staff were very keen to give students a sense of being part of something much larger than our individual degrees, and we were challenged to appreciate the privilege and social responsibility of a university education. "I loved the very personal, selfless and dedicated nature of the teaching I experienced. There was a real passion to entice students to find what they loved to learn and then apply this knowledge for the greater good. "I remember feeling completely free to express my views. It seemed like there was little ego involvement from these people who were true teachers. The staff did not take themselves too seriously. I remember when I was in third year, at the end of one of Professor Clarke's lectures on psychological theory as we walked down the hallway, I flung my hands across the chests of my fellow students and said at the top of my lungs "that was soooo ... boring!" Unbeknown to me, Professor Clarke was right behind. I blushed crimson and he said with a playful twinkle in his eyes, 'I agree...'!" She returned in the mid 1990s to undertake her PhD, studying the effects of stress on police. "After working in local, state and national clinical and policy areas, I lobbied for several years to gain full access to police for my doctoral work," she said. "I had been working with Vietnam veterans and although there was quite a lot of retrospective research work there were few, if any, prospective studies on traumatic stress reactions in occupational trauma, including police." Her research looked at identified physical health problems, suicidal behaviour, anxiety and depression, substance abuse and disruption on police families. She developed a theoretical model of traumatic stress reactions to predict the relationships between personal trauma and recovery variables that was evaluated in two studies with police that included 750 police recruits and inexperienced constables. NH For more details on Dr Higgins' book, visit www.evolvewithtrauma.com Alumni graduates of our university... UOW Alumni Network Thailand Chapter president Associate Professor Linchong Chorrojprasert has been honoured for her contribution to the University with the 2011 Vice-Chancellor's Distinguished Alumni Award. Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton presented Professor Chorrojprasert with her award at the annual Thai Alumni and Friends function at the Novotel Bangkok in October. Professor Chorrojprasert, who graduated with a PhD from UOW in 2005, has been president of the flourishing Thai Alumni Chapter since 2007. She is currently Dean of the Institute for English Language Education at Assumption University in Bangkok. She is also a visiting Principal Fellow with UOW's Faculty of Education. Professor Sutton also acknowledged the ongoing contribution of Khun Dusada Nunta and her team from the UOW's Thailand office to the Alumni Network - Thailand Chapter. For more than a decade under the leadership of successive presidents, Khun Dusada and her team have provided the operational support required to help make the ANTC an outstandingly successful Chapter. Australian Ambassador to Thailand James Wise was one of many distinguished guests at the Alumni function. NH Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton presents Associate Professor Linchong Chorrojprasert with her Distinguished Alumni award. Thai Chapter head honoured Book gives hope for trauma victims Dr Jeannie Higgins