The towering 10
Meet the high-achieving alumni who’ve become success stories in Australia and abroad. Their contributions have enriched the fields of science, medicine, mental health, sports, philanthropy, journalism and more.
Bachelor of Design – Industrial Design, 1997
Head of Production Technology, Animal Logic
With his creative nous and innovative approach to complex challenges, Aidan Sarsfield seems a natural choice for one of the world’s most accomplished digital studios.
Starting out with Animal Logic in 1999 with a degree in industrial design, Sarsfield cut his teeth as an animator on films including Moulin Rouge and Matrix Reloaded before being singled out for his big break: the role of character supervisor on Australia’s first 3D animated feature film, Happy Feet.
Charting new territory, Happy Feet won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film – and placed Australian animation firmly on Hollywood’s radar.
Spending the next eight years as computer graphics supervisor, Sarsfield led the expansion of the company’s feature
animation pipeline, generating innovations along the way that further raised the bar in visual animation. Following his work on critically acclaimed animated film, The Lego Movie, he’s recently taken up a new challenge as the company’s head of production technology.
“Making animated feature films is an incredible career,” says Sarsfield.
“It involves collaboration, creativity, and technology on a scale that is hard to imagine. At Animal Logic we are always looking for enthusiastic, creative people and we often find them emerging from UTS.”
Bachelor of Business, 1999
Investment Analyst, Fidelity Worldwide Investments
Stuart Welch’s journey has taken him all the way from schoolboy sculling to the Olympic podium.
Welch began rowing at age 13, and wasted no time joining the UTS Rowing Club when he started his business degree five years later. Soon after graduation, he made selection for the Australian Olympic Coxed Eight for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
“It puts a bit more pressure on you, being on home turf in front of the home crowd,” says Welch of the silver medal-winning finals race. “The celebrations afterwards were of epic proportions. Family and friends cheering on from the stands, everybody swimming out to the boat when you cross the finish line; it was all pretty special.”
Since retiring from competitive rowing in 2004 after winning bronze in Athens, he has focused on building a successful career in the finance sector, working in London and New York before taking up his current role in the Sydney office of Fidelity Worldwide Investments in 2010. While he’s now a casual rower, Welch maintains a keen interest in the future of the sport, lending his professional expertise through serving on UTS Rowing Club’s board.
Doctor of Philosophy, 2013
Lecturer, Palliative and Supportive Services, Flinders University
Aileen Collier is passionate about the delivery of palliative and end-of-life care, and the need to collaborate with patients and families in a sensitive manner.
“Dying people and their families are often marginalised,” she explains. “They are not always given opportunities to highlight their own points of view.”
Collier’s PhD, ‘Deleuzians of Patient Safety: A Video-Reflexive Ethnography of End-of-Life Care’, examines the links between the spaces where dying people find themselves, and explores how these spaces contribute to safety and quality of care.
The thesis won the prestigious International Institute for Qualitative Methodology PhD Dissertation Award in 2013, earning her a scholar’s invitation to the Mayo Clinic in the US, alllowing her to collaborate with colleagues in North America and Europe.
Bachelor of Arts in Communications – Media Arts and Production, 2009
Co-founder, Taste Creative
Genevieve Clay-Smith believes that you can’t understand someone’s full potential until you give them a chance to rise to the occasion.
The multi award-winning filmmaker and entrepreneur, who was named 2015 NSW Young Australian of the Year, is using her filmmaking talents to help diverse and marginalised communities voice their experiences through short film.
Through her not-for-profit organisation Bus Stop Films – which she runs on a volunteer basis – Clay-Smith hosts weekly filmmaking workshops and provides mentorship and learning opportunities for people facing barriers to inclusion.
“Inclusion in society is not just a human right. I wanted to help people who face barriers to inclusion get involved in filmmaking and engage in an industry that is notoriously difficult to participate in.”
Clay-Smith is also co-founder of Taste Creative, an agency focussed on artistry and storytelling.
Bachelor of Arts in Communications in Journalism and International Studies, 2007
Investigative Reporter, Australian Broadcasting Commission
Sarah Dingle has built a solid reputation for balancing probing journalism with sensitivity in bringing complex stories to light.
Last year she won her second Walkley Award, this time for her radio documentary The Salvos: A Matter of Trust. In her investigation into the organisation’s ongoing cover-up of child sexual abuse, Dingle gained interviews with victims and witnesses who had previously refused to speak out.
“Investigating stories on child sexual abuse is no picnic,” she says. “However, dipping a toe into what victims have lived through as a journalist is nothing to what they have to remember on a daily basis. When they trust me with their story it’s very humbling.”
The Salvos also earned her the UN Media Peace Prize for Radio Documentary in the same year, adding to her portfolio of accolades.
Dingle has spent the last eight years with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, currently as an investigative reporter on Radio National’s Background Briefing program.
Bachelor of Business; Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, 2007
Field Logistician, Médecins Sans Frontières
Crossing the river on a canoe into the Liberian border town of Foya, headed for the treatment centre at the nexus of the Ebola epidemic, Robert Onus had little time to adjust to his surrounds.
“It’s a difficult place to describe,” says Onus of the facility and the intensive safety processes.
As a logistician for Médecins Sans Frontières, the business and international studies graduate’s focus has been on improving facilities for the centre and its outreach activities: erecting buildings, hiring vehicles, establishing communications and power, and building toilets and waste disposal centres.
The treatment centre spans the size of two football fields and houses up to 100 patients. He also resources a large outreach team deployed to surrounding communities, assessing new cases and collecting the bodies of those for whom diagnosis and care come too late.
The high-risk zone – home to suspected and confirmed Ebola sufferers, the morgue and waste disposal areas – pose the most significant challenge. “Getting things in and out is a complicated procedure,” he says.
Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Management, 2011
Author, The Healthy Cook
Though he rose to fame as a contestant on Network Ten’s MasterChef, Dan Churchill has been sharing his passion for healthy cooking from early on.
Going into business as a health coach at just 17 years of age, Churchill then self-published his first cookbook, DudeFood, while working towards his sport and exercise management degree.
When the opportunity to apply for MasterChef presented itself, he jumped at the chance to back up his natural talent with training from some of Australia’s most lauded culinary aficionados. This led to more television appearances, publication in leading health magazines, and even being voted a finalist in last year’s CLEO Bachelor of the Year competition.
DudeFood is about to be re-released globally, following last year’s successful launch of his second cookbook, The Healthy Cook. He’s also in pre-production for his own television series in the US.
Stephen Loosley, AM
Bachelor of Laws, 1997
Strategic Counsel, Minter Ellison
In a political career that spanned over 20 years, Stephen Loosley was General Secretary of the NSW branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) before being elected to the Australian Senate in 1990, also serving as Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and then ALP National President.
He now holds a number of appointments, including Chair of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Deputy Chair of the Asia Society, Australia.
“The national interest is of overwhelming importance in the fields of defence and international relations. Australia is best served by careful evaluations of policy alternatives and I seek to bring something to the discussions of longer term perspectives.”
This year he became a Member of the Order of Australia, for significant service to the community through the development of public policy, to international relations, and to the Parliament of Australia.
Bachelor of Business, 2003
Director, Variety the Children’s Charity
With over 18 years’ management experience in advertising and media, Jillian Lynch has carved out a successful career at the intersection of financial management and creativity.
A director with numerous charities, notably Variety the Children’s Charity and the Spark Learning Foundation, she is also the finance director for independent advertising agency The Works.
For Lynch, a crucial element of her success is building the right team and helping them flourish. “I credit my success in business to my passion for working with people,” she says.
Lynch also runs her own consultancy, building capacity within start-ups and helping them deliver on their potential. “I like seeing great entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life in a way that helps them develop a stable and innovative long-term business.”
Bachelor of Science in Computing Science, 2001
Founder and CEO, ServiceRocket
Rob Castaneda has turned his gift for explaining technology to laypeople into the basis for a unique and profitable company.
ServiceRocket provides support solutions for some of the world’s most innovative software technologies. Today the company employs more than 170 staff, and has offices across Sydney, Palo Alto, Kuala Lumpur, Santiago and London.
At the heart of his business philosophy is the creation of an environment that people want to work in, and that customers enjoy doing business with.
“We’ve strived to build a culture where people are just that – people,” says Castaneda. “This means we can share a good laugh, be open and honest about problems and continue to focus on the outcome.”
He’s also connecting entrepreneurs around the globe, offering mentoring and other assistance. He also coaches youth sports and fundraises for underprivileged young athletes.
This year he was recognised in the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 under 40.
Story: Jenifer Waters
Photography: Kevin Cheung