From student advisor to postgraduate scholar - a journey of perseverance and success

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Former Massey staff member Ruth Jackson graduated with her Master of Communication this week, after deciding to challenge herself with postgraduate study.

Ruth Jackson.

After struggling through her undergraduate degree in science and not achieving in the way she would have liked, 46-year-old Ruth Jackson always felt like she had something to prove to herself. This week she did just that, when she walked across the stage to graduate with her Master of Communication with Distinction.

Ruth’s professional career saw her working for Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University, advising students on how to be more successful. It was this work that turned out to be the impetus for Ruth to pursue postgraduate study and prove to herself that she too could be more successful with tertiary study.

She enrolled in the Master of Communication in 2020 and found that postgraduate study was a far more enjoyable experience.

“I’ve really enjoyed returning to study. Postgraduate study gave me more opportunity to choose my own topics and I loved finding out more about issues that interest me,” she says.

Returning to study later in life wasn’t without its challenges, however. Ruth says that managing study around work and family life was a juggling act, but she was lucky to have great support from her family.

“My mum is super supportive with childcare and proof-read all of my assignments. I also had a very loyal study buddy – my dog Flash.”

Something else Ruth learnt while studying was how important rest is.

“It’s a really important part of the study process. Sometimes it was just as important to meditate, or walk the dog or have a sleep in as it was to force myself to sit at the computer and write.”

Ruth began working at Massey in 2012 as a student success advisor on the Manawatū campus. After a taking maternity leave for a couple of years, Ruth returned in 2016 on fixed-term contracts in Ākonga Māori Success and Community Engagement roles, later working for Student Enterprise and the Wānanga Nohinohi Te Kunenga Children's University Programme.

From February this year, Ruth has been studying full-time towards a PhD - the next step in her postgraduate study journey.

Her doctoral research is on inclusive enterprise, for which she received a scholarship through Te Kāhui Kahurangi School of Management.

“I am looking at how unconventional entrepreneurs balance serving their communities with running a profitable business. I chose this area as it builds on the work I was doing in enterprise and my interest in marginalised communities.”

Ruth says that her return to study has made her realise she’s capable of more than she thought, that organisation and persistence is more important than being clever, and that following what she loves is the way that works for her.

Ruth’s wife Marolyn also works for the university. They have two children, aged 14 and nine. She says she would advise those thinking about studying to plan how it will fit into their lives before they start, then take the leap and give it all they’ve got.

“Also, make use of all of the supports that Massey offers. Join the social media support groups, find some study buddies, book appointments with learning consultants, attend the workshops run by the library and ask for support from friends and family. It takes a village!

“I'm so grateful to my wife, Marolyn, my children, my Mum and my step-dad, Dave, and to Massey University for all the support that has helped me along the way. Also, my master's project supervisor, Dr Elena Maydell, and especially to Dr Lawrence McDonald, Writing Consultant from the Student Experience team who helped me with wise feedback on so many assignments.”

And what would Ruth say is her secret to success?

“Believe in yourself, make a plan and keep going until you get there.”

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