A ‘70s alumnus of The University of the South Pacific (USP) and the present Associate Professor of Professional and Practice Based Learning at Griffith University, Associate Professor Sarojni Choy (nee Naidu) came as a student to USP in 1976 and graduated with a Diploma of Science in 1978.
Dr Choy describes her experiences at USP as enriching. “I came as a naÃ¯ve village girl and was transformed into a professional teacher. I lived on campus and was immersed in a rich multi-cultural community of students from eleven (11) Pacific countries and international staff who brought together a mix of ethnic cultures, languages, values, understandings and different perspectives on life. The campus offered a shared space to commingle, learn and live together. I was the first and remain the only child in my family with tertiary education.”
USP was the only institution in Fiji that offered University qualifications in the 1970s and Dr Choy counts herself as one of the lucky ones who got the opportunity to study here. Pursuing a Diploma in Science was the result of her interest in Science and teaching. “Perhaps I was also influenced by teachers who were the only professionals as role models in my remote village.”
Her study was supported by a Fiji Government scholarship and like many other families at the time, her family could not have afforded the expenses otherwise. Being away from home for the first time, expectations of her family and adjusting to new people of different backgrounds were all very challenging. “I was on a learning journey together with other students experiencing similar challenges. This gave me strength. I am grateful for this experience that has influenced who I became when I left USP.”
Immediately after graduating from USP, Dr Choy taught Science and Mathematics at Suva Grammar School but soon after had career breaks due to family movements across the globe to follow her husband’s study and career opportunities.
She returned to Fiji in 1985 and worked at the Curriculum Resources Unit (CRU) at USP which was a UNESCO initiative to service school curriculum across the South Pacific countries. USP took over its management in the 1980s. She then left for Brunei where she taught Science and Mathematics for seven years (1987-19930). Brunei was her first Asian experience which she enjoyed very much.
She migrated with her family to Australia in 1993. By 1994 she had completed a Bachelor of Education at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia.“I had intended to join the teaching workforce, but I was encouraged by a tutor to complete a Master’s degree.” Her grades in her Bachelor of Education degree were outstanding and she was offered a scholarship to complete a Master of Education (Research). Immediately upon completion of her Masters qualification she was offered an Australian Postgraduate Award to complete a PhD. She graduated with her PhD in 2001.
“I saw challenges as opportunities — to think positive, persevere and make things happen for me. I accepted the fact that I was responsible for my goals and had no expectation, hence experienced fewer disappointments. I was always determined and very goal focused and worked hard to achieve these. USP has seeded an interest and commitment to be mindful of others, to be tolerant and make the world a better place.”
She graduated with a PhD in 2001 after which she joined the vocational education and training sector and held various positions including being a Project Officer, Researcher, Project Manager at the state level in Queensland, and Principal Policy Officer with the Commonwealth Government.
She joined the university sector in 2005 and has since remained as academic and researcher. “Currently I am an Associate Professor in Professional and Practice Based Learning at Griffith University. I enjoy the teaching and research that I do. Notably, I enjoy the international work that I do for the delivery of the Master of Training and Development and Master Classes.”
She is the Programme Director of the Master of Training and Development program which is customised to develop a critical mass of adult educators who are engaged in transforming Singapore’s national strategy on continuing education and training. This programme has been sponsored by the Singapore Government since 2011.
Dr Choy enjoys teaching and research. She has been very successful in several workforce development projects internationally and in collaborative research with colleagues across the globe. “I have thoroughly enjoyed all positions I have held since graduation. Each offered me distinct opportunities to contribute to the betterment of education and society, and I worked hard to do my best.”
Thinking back on how USP has helped in her career Dr Choy states that “USP has seeded an interest and commitment to be mindful of others, to be tolerant and make the world a better place. My USP experiences instilled good values about taking responsibility and contributing to society through my chosen profession.”
She encourages graduates to make a plan and take responsibility for their career while being open to change and being prepared to learn beyond what is needed to complete a job. Most importantly, she enforces the need to maintain a balance, enjoy life and make a difference in the society.
Talking about her achievements, Dr Choy states, “I have thoroughly enjoyed all positions I have held since graduation. Each offered me distinct opportunities to contribute to the betterment of education and society, and I worked hard to do my best.” All this is very gratifying for a graduate who started at USP.