Skip to content

University Alumni Award winners making a difference at home and on the world stage

From influential careers in psychology, diplomacy and policing, to on-the-ground humanitarian work in Ukraine, this year’s University of Tasmania Alumni Award winners are using education and leadership to empower others.

The four recipients of the 2022 University of Tasmania Alumni Awards are: Commissioner of Tasmania Police Donna Adams (Distinguished Alumni Award), celebrated psychologist Professor Michelle Craske (International Alumni Award), Ukraine Country Director with the humanitarian organisation Nonviolent Peaceforce Felicity Gray (Joint Young Alumni Award), and diplomat and proud Palawa woman Sarah Leary (Joint Young Alumni Award).

The University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rufus Black, described the nominees for the awards as outstanding.

“Congratulations to our award winners. The University takes great pride in the real difference they are making to the world,” Professor Black said.

“It is an honour for us to be associated with alumni who are making such significant contributions.”

Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Commissioner Donna Adams (GradCertPoliceSt 2002, MPoliceSt 2011)

In August 2022 Donna Adams was named Tasmania’s 15th Commissioner of Police. She is the highest-ranking female member of the State’s police service and the first woman to take on the role of Commissioner in the service’s 125-year history.

Donna has been working in policing in Tasmania for three decades and attributes her success to a passion for lifelong learning.

“I enjoy mentoring and supporting other women in Tasmania Police, encouraging them to seek professional development and promotion, and to demonstrate leadership,” Donna said.

“I’m a strong supporter of lifelong learning, and believe my university education helped challenge my thinking, widening the lens on how I see, consider, and seek to resolve issues.”

International Alumni Award recipient Distinguished Professor Michelle Craske AO BA (Hons 1981)

US-based Professor Craske AO is one of the most celebrated psychologists in the field of anxiety and depression research, a contribution recognised this year with the award of Officer of the Order of Australia.

Professor Craske graduated from the University of Tasmania in 1981 and is now Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, among other roles, at the University of California (UCLA). She has published over 570 peer reviewed journal articles, earning her a place on the Web of Science’s list of Most Highly Cited Researchers.

Professor Craske, who has a scholarship in her name at the University of Tasmania, says, “I was impressed with the Psychology Department. They had high expectations of their students, but they also believed in us.”

Professor Craske will deliver an Island of Ideas public lecture online and in-person at the Sir Stanley Burbury Lecture Theatre on 7 December: Closing the Mental Health Gap: STAND for the future.

Joint Young Alumni Award recipient Ms Felicity Gray (BA Hons 2011)

Devonport-born, US-based Felicity Gray works on the ground in Ukraine as Country Director with the humanitarian organisation Nonviolent Peaceforce. She operates on the frontlines of Mykolaiv, Odessa and Kharkiv, aiming to achieve peace, justice and strong institutions.

Since winning the University Medal in 2011, she is an expert in the field of civilian protection, particularly in the unarmed and nonviolent strategies that are used by civilians to protect one another in conflict zones.

“It is a privilege to work alongside civilians directly impacted by violence, and support their efforts to protect their own communities,” Felicity said.

“Much more needs to be done to celebrate and resource their efforts, and I am grateful for this award and thankful to the University of Tasmania for the opportunity to further shine a light on civilian-led protection efforts."

Joint Young Alumni Award recipient Ms Sarah Leary (BA 2013)

A proud Palawa woman, diplomat and former journalist from North-West Tasmania, Sarah Leary has achieved a number of high-profile trade and investment outcomes across the Indo-Pacific through her leading role in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

On postings to Vietnam, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and the United States, she has been a strong advocate for supporting the meaningful participation of First Nations people in diplomacy. She is passionate about supporting regional youth to pursue career opportunities in international affairs.

As advisor to Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, Sarah supported Australia’s UN Human Rights Council campaign. She represented Australia at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2012.

One of Sarah’s proudest career achievements was establishing the successful $52m Pacific Step-up initiative – PacificAus Sports – culminating in the stronger inclusion of Pacific athletes in Australia’s Super Rugby Pacific franchise, and the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“This award means so much to my family on the North-West Coast and I hope my story connects with other young students who come from humble beginnings,” Sarah said.

“Students from low socio-economic backgrounds face a number of hidden challenges in pursuing careers internationally, and I’m grateful to my UTAS teachers who helped me take the first steps in my diplomatic career.”

Read more about our current and previous award recipients

Image: (From top left) Commissioner Donna Adams, Distinguished Professor Michelle Craske AO

Image: (From bottom left) Felicity Gray, Image copyright: Nonviolent Peaceforce Ukraine,  Sarah Leary

Published on: 09 Nov 2022 1:33pm