Alumni Update | Issue Eight 2014
Former student leader gives back
Arun Thomas
Arun Thomas
Registered Nurse
Bachelor of Nursing, 2013

Recent nursing graduate, scholarship recipient and former President of the UniSA Student Association (USASA), Arun Thomas, is so grateful for the opportunities he received while studying here that he has decided to donate to the University.

After leaving India as a 17 year old to study in Australia, Arun became the first international student to be awarded the Resthaven 75th Anniversary Nursing Scholarship in 2012. He is currently exploring options for using his donation to assist international students.

Arun grew up in the town of Bharananganam in Kerala, India. An average student, he spent more energy on church and youth leadership activities.

“When I began Year 11, I decided that I wanted to study overseas to be exposed to experiences in another country,” says Arun, who approach his father for help.

“My dad put to me a proposition that if I achieved above 90% in my Year 12 subjects he would guarantee to assist me financially to go to any university I chose,” says Arun.

With this challenge to motivate him he worked extremely hard and achieved grades above 95% in his subjects for the first time ever. His lecturers “were gobsmacked” with disbelief, he says.

Arun chose to come to Adelaide, and having studied the commerce stream at senior high school, he enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce at University of South Australia.

Arun was grateful for his father’s support but he was determined to stand on his own two feet.

“I didn’t want to be dependent on my parents, so when I came here I obtained a Certificate III in Aged Care and worked as a personal care worker in a nursing home which greatly assisted financing my entire university studies,” he said.

Nursing became his real love and he undertook a TAFE Diploma of Enrolled Nursing to gain the science credits to enable him to enter the UniSA Bachelor of Nursing program.

Having fallen into the pattern of moving back and forth between study and work, Arun decided he wanted to become more engaged in student activities.

“I wanted to be someone that my fellow students looked up to. I wanted to inspire people. I knew that I needed to get out there and engaged with people. That’s how I got into student politics,” says Arun.

He was encouraged by the former President of the UniSA Student Association, Stephen McCallum.

“I was elected as student representative for City East Campus and later I was elected as President,” says Arun.

Arun served two terms as President from mid-2012 to mid-2014 and at was recently awarded an Honorary Life Membership to the USASA board. He is the first international student to receive this prestigious award from USASA.

During Arun’s time as USASA President he oversaw major changes within the Association, including two restructures, a major re-branding and a financial overhaul which saw the organisation turnaround from a financial loss to a profit.

“It was a very challenging time for the organisation and for me as President,” says Arun.

“My strength was my passion and being engaged with people. I surrounded myself with experienced people. I took a collaborative approach and was never afraid to fail,” says Arun.

As USASA President he was also a member of University Council and Academic Board. He is fortunate to be able to count among his mentors UniSA Council members Eric Granger FUniSA FAICD, former General Manager of BUPA, and Paula Nagel AM, Former Chair of Education Adelaide, and senior registered nurse/lecturer, Alan Dowler.

“I am very fortunate and privileged to have mentors in my life. They played a big role in all my success and guided me through some tough times. They have accepted me at my strongest and supported me at my weakest,” says Arun.

Arun is working in a private hospital in Adelaide and is currently a member of Australian Institute of Company Directors. He would like to combine his leadership, commerce and nursing skills to one day become the CEO of a health care organisation.

“All I want to do is to give back to the community and to make a positive difference in people’s lives by being a role model, and of course to make my alma mater proud,” says Arun, recalling his father’s words: ‘Your Life should not be qualified by fluent English, branded clothes, running for money or rich lifestyle. It is measured by number of faces who smile when they hear your name’.”

View Arun Thomas' LinkedIn profile

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