Inspiring, insightful, and eloquent, 2022 Alumnus of the Year Elise Prior grew up on a property between the Barossa and Clare Valleys in South Australia. She is a busy young woman now working in Adelaide, but the ‘country girl’ in her loves country escapes with fresh air, furry friends, wine, and walking trails. And with a quick wit, she assures us that wine and walking trails don’t occur on the same day!
She is unquestionably community-minded and caring, with a myriad of volunteering and support roles to her name, and has an enviable intellect.
She graduated from the University of Adelaide with High Distinctions in her Bachelor of Psychological Science and First Class Honours in her Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours), achieving a Grade Point Average of 7.00/7.00 for both degrees.
Elise was also recognised as the highest scoring student in numerous courses throughout her tertiary studies.
She is already the published co-author of two peer-reviewed journal articles, a recipient of the 2019 Adelaide Graduate Award, and was selected to deliver the Valedictorian address for her graduating cohort.
These achievements alone make Elise the perfect choice for the 2022 Audi Foundation – CEF Alumnus of the Year title, but there is more to her story.
At just thirteen, she contracted a chronic illness that affects almost every aspect of her functioning – immune system, cognitive function, muscles, joints, and more. Since school, she has approached education and her life with tenacity, not allowing illness to stop her from pursuing her goals. She completed year 12 over two years and then went on to university, moving away from home and to what she describes as a ‘tiny apartment’ in Adelaide’s central business district.
“I went from enjoying a view of crops and sheep (and certainly no people!) to a view of hundreds of people shopping (and certainly no sheep!).”
Elise explains that for her the move was not only necessitated by geography, but by her condition: “The long commute to university from my family home would have been unmanageable.” She says support from the Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation and CEF not only helped with paying for her little apartment, but with travel costs for her Mum to assist with the daily tasks she struggled with, just as she had done since Elise became unwell more than a decade ago.
“I would like to thank Kapunda High School Centenary Foundation chairperson Barry Vogt, secretary Anne Hornsey, former treasurer Clyde Hazel, and former Kapunda High School principal Kristen Masters for providing extra support during my time at university. This support has afforded me the perfect springboard for success throughout my tertiary study and beyond.”
Elise was surprised by how quickly she adjusted to her new living arrangements, but like many regional students who relocate, still experienced homesickness, saying, “I even used Google Street View to digitally ‘return’ home and take a ‘walk’ down my dirt road!”
Living in the city centre and near the university meant Elise could focus her limited energies on study and be involved in campus life – and she made the most of this, as she always manages to do.
“Combining study demands with the management of my chronic illness was incredibly challenging, but I was determined to achieve, and I aspired to undertake tertiary study.”
Along with her stellar academic results, she was incredibly involved with university activities and determined to support and improve the experiences of other students – not surprising given her aptitude and passion for psychology.
She was an Academic Tutor/Mentor for Wirltu Yarlu Aboriginal Education, a Peer Assisted Study Sessions Leader, a Student Ambassador, and a Peer Mentor. She served as a student representative on various academic committees, and was the Vice-President and Secretary of the Psychology Students’ Association as well as the Adelaide University Rural Health Alliance Psychology Representative. This commitment to others saw her nominated for the 2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Student Volunteer of the Year Award.
“Resilience and perseverance were essential for me, along with the physical and emotional support of my mum and my fiancé.”
As a young country woman who longs for that dirt road to home, adores a sunset, and seeks out the opportunity to help others, Elise says she was honoured to be able to use her education to assist ACT for Ag last year, an organisation that aims to improve the wellbeing and resilience of farmers, farming families, and rural communities. She explains, “I developed accessible, evidence-based online and print resources and tools to build the psychological flexibility of rural communities. I also contributed to designing and delivering interactive wellbeing workshops to rural Australians.” She says the experience with ACT for Ag was “incredibly fulfilling, and allowed me to foster my passion for combining psychology with public health.”
Now, having graduated after six years of study, during which there were times she almost had to withdraw due to ill health, she is excited to be putting her education into action once again.
She is starting her career in a flexible and inclusive workplace that will support her and provide opportunities to learn and flourish, as a Data Analyst at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, within the Graduate Development Program. “It has been exciting to enter the public sector and assist governments, businesses, and communities in making evidence-based decisions for the betterment of Australian society!”
“I am the first in my family to graduate from university.
I appreciate my unique position of privilege, considering that many people never get the opportunity to acquire tertiary education.
I endeavour to use the full power of my education to make a difference in the world.”
Elise reminds us all that we can achieve our dreams with courage and perseverance… and a little help if we are willing to ask for and accept it, no matter what we face. Most importantly, she shows us that nothing can diminish the intelligence, kindness, and abilities we possess – that even when dealing with the most difficult of circumstances, those wonderful qualities can and will shine if we let them.