Dual milestone for decade of dedication

30 June 2024
Sara Barnbaum sitting at desk and computer
Sara Barnbaum

By Tiahna Fiddling

As CQUniversity commemorates the 10-year anniversary of merging with CQ TAFE, Rockhampton-based staff member Sara Barnbaum is celebrating her own milestone.

Ms Barnbaum began her career with CQU as a project assistant on 1 July 2014, the day of the merger, where she worked on the Academic Unification project between the two institutions. 

“I was a small cog in what was a huge undertaking for the University, involving multiple project teams,” Ms Barnbaum explained.

“I worked across a number of projects established to help coordinate the 2014 merger process alongside supporting Project Director Kim Harrington and providing secretarial duties for the Academic Unification Committee.”

As a staff member new to the University, Ms Barnbaum provided a fresh perspective to the project which was primarily focused on integrating Vocational Education and Training (VET) and higher education (HE) curriculum and governance processes.

“It was an exciting time to join the University and be part of what was an historic change in establishing Queensland’s first dual sector university. 

“Through my role with the Academic Unification project, I was able to meet and engage with a broad cross-section of University staff, from both the HE and VET spaces,” she said. 

“There was understandable apprehension from some staff about what the merger would mean, but also a great deal of enthusiasm for the longer-term benefits that a dual-sector model would deliver for students.” 

Ms Barnbaum’s passion for growth, innovation and a steadfast commitment to educational excellence has proven to be the backbone of her career, supporting the University through various projects roles and responsibilities.

“Work on the project continued well beyond the merger date, providing an opportunity for me to continue to work for Kim Harrington when she was appointed Associate Vice-Chancellor for the Rockhampton Region.

“A recent highlight of my career has been working with Flexible Learning and Innovation Projects (FLIP) on the Be Different project and the establishment of the University’s first hyperflexible course, the MBA (Leadership). 

“It has been a privilege to be involved with this innovative project from the earliest days of building this online course, managing the pilot cohorts, and enrolling our very first fee-paying students.”

The project led Ms Barnbaum to her current role as a Project Officer with the Learning Design and Innovation (LDI) Directorate.

“Having started with the Academic Unification project to now working with the LDI Directorate is a full circle moment as LDI supports staff across the whole of the University.

“I joined the University because of the opportunity to work in a diverse and dynamic environment which has proven to be true. I’ve remained because I genuinely believe in the value of education and how it can change lives.”

Associate Vice-President for the Rockhampton and Central Highlands Regions, Kim Harrington said Ms Barnbaum is a testament to CQU’s ethos.

“Organisations are about the people, and it is our people that make the difference. We are all one team, working for one university, towards one goal.

“Sara’s work on the Academic Unification project helped to establish new pathways that seamlessly integrated vocational and higher education offerings. This revolutionised our educational approach by creating a culture where our VET teachers and academics work together,” Ms Harrington said. 

“At CQU, we are uniquely positioned with our education offerings to suit everyone no matter what stage of their study journey they are at. Our curriculum and articulation allows a student to begin with VET in a Certificate I, and who knows, in decades to come they could be graduating with a PhD.”

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