Carolyn Daniels overcame many obstacles to graduate with a PhD from CQUniversity where she also works as a researcher
Carolyn Daniels overcame many obstacles to graduate with a PhD from CQUniversity where she also works as a researcher Jann Houley

Soon-to-be Dr Daniels investigates women's successful study

CAROLYN Daniels knows what it means to work hard towards a goal regardless of obstacles life throws in a woman's way.

The single mother completed her Honours degree in business studies as she looked after her partner who was ill at the time and later passed away.

Tomorrow afternoon, she will stand tall on the CQUniversity podium to receive her Doctor of Philosophy degree from Chancellor John Abbott.

READ: CQUniversity students graduating Thursday

Ms Daniels acknowledged the "enormous struggle" she herself faced in following her academic goals, so she has the utmost respect for the women she interviewed who'd done it even tougher.

"I've had women tell me their family members mocked them and tried to undermine their studies," she said.

"As one woman told, 'I dared to get out of the box they put me in'."

Ms Daniels, who works at the university in Indigenous research, reduced her workload to part-time for three of the four years it took her to finish her research.

She interviewed women she knew and women referred to her - a method known as "snowball sampling" - from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, to identify their challenges in pursuing education and training.

"I realised early I needed to include a critical theory aspect to my research because of the social justice issues, including domestic violence and lack of partner support, which arose again and again," she said.

Critical theory is an approach which considers the social, historical and ideological forces which shape and reinforce social culture.

READ: Tage's take on strategic business earns a PhD from CQUni

In spending an hour or more interviewing each woman, Ms Daniels was shocked by how much her subjects went through in order to create a new pathway in their lives.

"One interesting outcome was two distinct groups of women's experiences emerged, depending on how they transitioned from high school," she said.

"Most women, the ones who always knew they would go to university, and had the family support to do it, reported even later in life their partners were a lot more supportive.

"In contrast, women who returned to study as a mature-age student, having put their partners and kids first when they were younger, struggled the most with a lack of support."

What they all shared, however, was the elation - and relief - of finally finishing their degree.

"It took more commitment than I could ever imagine to finish and I'm really proud of the thesis I submitted," Ms Daniels said.

"It's the greatest relief to know it's finally done."

With no immediate future studies in mind, Ms Daniels is keen to integrate what she has learned from her studies into supporting university students through her work.

"There are financial scholarships available here at CQUniversity as well as really practical support such as making provision for childcare as single parents sit their exams," she said.

"But I would say my greatest advice is have a look at your goal when you wake up every morning."