Shifting roles

Jenni Hopkins shares her story of how UTS helped her turn a critical corner during a difficult career change.

Story by Kevin Cheung

Jenni HopkinsIt is often said that the average person will go through several career changes in their lifetime. For Jenni Hopkins, a plan to transition into the world of midwifery and to help pregnant women was thrown into disarray when her husband unexpectedly passed away in 2003.

“I was a sole parent,” recalls Hopkins. “At that stage, my son was seven years old and my daughter was four. It was virtually just me as the sole income earner and it was tough.”

Prior to that, the former marketing executive had started her own business specialising in remedial massage. Over time she came to work with many pregnant women, which blossomed into a passion for midwifery – something she chose to pursue when she discovered UTS offers direct entry to its Bachelor of Midwifery course.

“I didn’t want to do nursing...I just wanted to work with pregnant women,” Hopkins explains. “When I saw that UTS was offering direct entry, I just jumped at the opportunity.”

As a single parent, however, the practicalities of university life put her young family under considerable hardship.

“It’s not just the days you have to spend on campus at university: there’s also the work you have to do outside. The clinical element means hospital work, which is a challenge because hospital shifts are unfortunately not very family-friendly.

“The time I had left to earn an income was greatly reduced and I ended up accumulating a lot of debt.” says Hopkins. “In the end, I realised I needed to study part-time, but part-time study wasn’t available back then.”

Hopkins was able to make things work by talking with the faculty staff, who were happy to help create a more flexible study pathway for her. Friends and family helped out with care of the kids. She also drew on her superannuation, citing financial hardship − but she knew this was unsustainable.

“In the end it was all overwhelming. I needed to get some money behind me, and I needed to pay off my debt. That’s why I deferred for twelve months,” says Hopkins. “But at the end of that 12 months, I’d only just gotten ahead of my personal issues, so I ended up taking a second year off, which is the limit.”

The second year of deferral confirmed for Hopkins that she wanted more than ever to complete the midwifery degree. She also discovered that she could receive financial assistance from UTS to help with her living and study expenses.

“To be honest, I wasn’t even aware that all this help was available,” she admits. “Since coming back last year, I’ve had to step up the pace of my studies, but I’ve been made aware of all these opportunities for extra help through scholarships, which have been an amazing help.”

With just 18 months left to go, Hopkins is on the cusp of finally realising her goal of working with pregnant women. She is completing her training at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick NSW, where she hopes to one day be positioned as a registered midwife.