A bright future for a driven young woman

  • By Arielle Markou SAusIMM, WIMnetSA Committee Member
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It is not often that you come across a young individual with the list of achievements, maturity and humility that Ava Stephens has. When you consider that Ava has had a childhood that would not propel many of us into the success story that she is writing for herself, her existence is even more of a rarity.

In her eyes, Ava is a just a geology student – a country girl with a desire to see the world and lucky enough to be a 2015 AusIMM Education Endowment Fund Scholarship recipient. This may be factually correct, but when you get talking to her, Ava is passionate, insightful and keen to learn from everyone around her. She will no doubt succeed in achieving her dream of becoming an exploration geologist and, after speaking with a number of people who know her, she is likely to achieve much, much more.

Ava spent her childhood on a remote property near Ebor, on the New South Wales northern tablelands. She moved to Tibooburra, 336 kilometres north of Broken Hill, just before starting high school where she studied at home via distance education through Dubbo. Ava studied maths, physics and biology, as well as Earth science and English, and was Dux of her school when she graduated in 2012. Even though she did not have the support that usually comes with undertaking school on campus, during high school she won the Australian Geographic Geography Competition and came second twice.

Ava’s interest in rocks and landscape formations was inspired by extensive travel through arid Australia as a young person, her love of the natural world, and a fascination with petrified wood. This interest is shared with her brother and attracted the interest of passing geologists who spoke of careers travelling the world.

Ava commenced a degree in Mineral Geoscience at the University of Adelaide in 2013. She explains that her first day at university started ‘after having driven from home by herself, a trip that took twelve hours.’ This seemed to be no problem for the aspiring geologist because the previous November, after her final high school exam, she drove to Perth via the back way past Uluru ‘just to have a look at Curtin University.’ Ava will fit in well to the exploration lifestyle once she enters the industry as on this trip, as well as during many others, she spent her nights camped out along the track.

The independent study routine of distance education at high school proved an advantage in adjusting to university and Ava hasn’t looked back. With a new world opened up via further study, her passion for geology is now cemented. ‘It’s what I want to do’, says Ava, ‘I’ve always wanted it and learning more about geology at university makes me even more excited about being a geologist.’

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After joining the AusIMM as a student member and participating in student events and industry nights, Ava heard about the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) Scholarship and was quick to apply. Recognising Ava’s potential and her need for financial support, the AusIMM selected her as a recipient. Since being awarded the scholarship, Ava has attended the New Leaders Conference in Kalgoorlie, AusIMM Uranium Conference in Adelaide and the Broken Hill Resources Investment Symposium; opportunities she may not have had without the scholarship.

Ava has appreciated interacting with other scholarship recipients and looks forward to joining them on the upcoming AusIMM Mt Isa field trip in July. Ava has been overwhelmed by the positive encouragement and support she has received through the scholarship. ‘I am especially pleased to have gained a mentor, someone who is able to provide me with professional advice and knowledge as well as important industry contacts.’

Recently Ava undertook vacation work with the South Australian Geological Survey, including a field trip to Arkaroola and Tibooburra, and will soon co-publish the results of this project. Perhaps most exciting of all, later this year in August Ava will travel as an exchange student to the United States for twelve months where she will attend Colorado School of Mines, studying subjects not available to her in Adelaide. Ava hopes to have opportunity to work while overseas, using her industry contacts to visit international operations and gain valuable hands-on experience in the field, with hopefully some time focusing on exploration geology.

Ava says the EEF Scholarship has made all the difference to her hope of achieving her dream to becoming a geologist, not only as a means of financial support but also as a source of professional encouragement. She intends to complete her honours in 2017 and is looking forward to being a part of and contributing to the mining industry.

Ava is a fantastic inspiration for those of us who think we do not have the backing to achieve our dreams, and WIMnetSA wishes her all the best for her upcoming exchange to Colorado and looks forward to seeing what she achieves in the next few years.

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