Getting the right start

Linden Little Engineering Equity Scholarship recipients with Linden Little's daughter Lynette Philpott and Linden Little's grandson David Hardie

(L to R) Omaira Kola, Peter Tran, Frances Nguyen, Lynette Philpott, David Hardie, Rafael Perez, Shahd Sumrain, Kristen Clark, Jai Lynch, Sadique Hussain. Photography: Kevin Cheung

The move from high school to university can be fraught with challenges and anxiety. For many students, it’s also their first time living away from home, often in an unfamiliar place with new people, coupled with the need to hold down a job to make ends meet.

That was the case for Jai Lynch, who grew up in Coonamble, 550km north–west of Sydney. He’d enrolled to study engineering at UTS, but struggled to finance his move to Sydney. He applied for the Linden Little Engineering Equity Scholarship, which he received in 2013.

Lynch is now graduating this spring. Reflecting on his options if he hadn’t received the scholarship, he says, “It would have made it harder to focus on my studies and get through my first couple of semesters.”

Rafael Perez shares a similar story: he had the marks to study engineering at university, but was ineligible for a government HECS loan because he was an immigrant with only permanent residency at the time.

Perez was awarded the Linden Little Engineering Equity Scholarship in 2012. “It gave me enough money to pay for the first two years of my degree, until I became a citizen.”

Perez now works for Saacke Australia, a German company that specialises in combustion energy systems.

One of many scholarships available at UTS, the Linden Little scholarship assists students who face educational disadvantages such as financial hardship, personal illness, or coming from a migrant or refugee background. It celebrated its 15th anniversary last year.

David Hardie, who established the scholarship in memory of his late grandfather, has a strong appreciation for the student experience. “For many of the students, it’s their first interview,” he says. “So it’s not about doing a fantastic interview, it’s about seeing that there’s a bit of a spark and a real willingness to grab an opportunity.”

UTS alumna Omaira Kola recalls her nervousness back in 2009 when she was invited to UTS for an interview. “English was my second language at the time, and I was still learning it, so I was worried that with my thick accent they wouldn’t be able to understand me.”

Kola is now an engineer at LendLease and very happy not to have a HECS debt to pay off. “I was able to buy textbooks and pay my university fees. Having financial support allowed me to have more time to be focused because I knew I was going to be okay financially,” she says.

Another alumnus, Francis Nguyen, recalls the support he received when he found it difficult to maintain his academic performance.

“When my grades started to slip a bit, I’d get called in by the sponsor coordinator at the time and get a quick catch–up on how I was going. They gave me some motivation to get back on track,” he says.

“The scholarship did make a difference to my grades. It really gave me a drive to finish, because I thought, someone was looking out for me.” Nguyen now manages defence contracts across NSW.

Linden Little's Legacy

Linden Little, the founder of Slingsby Holdings, passed away in 2001. “He was a very unassuming, kind, gentle man. He was incredibly important to me in my life and to all of our family,” says grandson David Hardie. “He left a significant legacy through sheer hard work over many years. When he passed away, we were keen to honour that legacy in a way he would’ve been really pleased with.”

Hardie held discussions with UTS and established the Linden Little Engineering Equity Scholarship through the Slingsby Foundation. “My vision was to help somebody start university in a strong way, to overcome barriers … to give somebody an opportunity that they might not otherwise get, because of their background or their financial circumstances.” says Hardie.

Whether they’ve only started receiving the scholarship or have long since graduated, Hardie has stayed in touch with many recipients to “get insight into what they’re enjoying, what they’re struggling with, about the work experience component and to share some of my experiences from my career,” he says. “It’s a delight to have a chance to meet bright young people.”

Story by Melinda Ham