Steven Carr left school at 15, but after 27 fulfilling years in the hospitality industry, and with the youngest of his children starting school, he decided it was time to make a change. In 2012, he completed Melbourne Polytechnic’s Diploma of Tertiary Studies and has now been accepted to begin his Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University in 2013.
"You get out what you put in; I put in a lot and I got the rewards, but it was with the lecturers’ time and support. The positive, supportive and mentally challenging atmosphere that they created really did build up my self-belief." said Steven Carr about Melbourne Polytechnic, formerly known as NMIT.
Steven Carr has worked in the hospitality industry since he left school at 15, but even with the variety of roles he held — as a chef, sommelier and even a wine maker — the work began to take its toll.
“I loved the industry and I always found it rewarding, but physically and time-wise it was all-consuming. So with young children to consider, I needed a change.”
“Just before I started at Melbourne Polytechnic I was a stay-at-home dad for four or so years. My youngest daughter started primary school this year, so it gave me the opportunity to look at full-time study.”
Without any formal qualifications, Steven’s search for the right entry point into tertiary study wasn’t as straight forwards as he had hoped. After “doing the rounds” of all of the university Open Days in 2011, he found a lot of roadblocks for people who were seeking alternative pathways to tertiary education.
“Because I’d left school so long ago and at such a young age, I needed a course to show me what was required academically and how to study”.
Melbourne Polytechnic’s Diploma of Tertiary Studies was exactly what he was looking for.
“It ticked all of the boxes that I was after: the ongoing relationship with La Trobe, the class sizes were small and the subject matter was quite varied as well”.
Now, having completed the course, there is no doubt in his mind: “even with hindsight I can say it was exactly what I needed”.
“I knew the course would give me the skills, but I didn’t know if it would open the right doors. The relationship with La Trobe made it a no-brainer and it has proven fruitful now.”
An important part of the journey was balancing the demands of tertiary study with a busy family life.
“Initially it was a bit daunting just taking that first step and I did find it difficult to start off with, but the more organised I was the better I became at it. I broke up everything into time allotments. If I had half an hour, I had my half-hour pile; if I had two hours I had my two-hour pile — and I worked at night after my ‘fatherly duties’ were done.”
Steven has received overwhelming support from his family and friends, including his two daughters who were fascinated by their dad’s school-life. He also credits a lot of his success to the staff at Melbourne Polytechnic.
“I can’t speak highly enough of them. And also the librarians, can I thank the librarians? They are awesome and so under-utilised.”
The combination of more traditional academic subjects, like sociology and history, with more skills-based classes, like academic writing and research, gave Steven the knowledge and confidence to far outshine his humble ambitions for the year.
“All I wanted from this course was to be able to write an essay; I’d never written an essay before in my life.”
Well beyond that, Steven was able to channel his knowledge of the hospitality industry in Melbourne and his curiosity about its history into a research project on the evolution of Melbourne’s internationally renowned food culture.
“The project was supposed to be around 1600 words with a 2000 word journal, but I ended up with around 14,000 words.”
Those 14,000 words have caught the interest of history staff at La Trobe University, who will work with Steven next year to shape the project into a book manuscript.
“A year ago if you had told me I could be published I would have laughed heartily. Now I’m thinking about doing a double degree, slightly beyond my aim of ‘just writing an essay’.”
The future still lies open for Steven, but it’s certainly rich with potential.
“I don’t know yet where this is going to take me, but the way I’ve structured my course next year at La Trobe gives me numerous options. I will always be thankful for NMIT and this course, along with the lecturers, whose support and direction were just amazing. It has been absolutely life changing. So I don’t know where it’s going, but that’s absolutely part of the excitement.”
Diploma of Tertiary Studies