Claire Dodos Awarded Berndt Memorial Prize

There are many reasons to study at university, and many answers too. It can feel overwhelming to make just one choice, which has the ability to profoundly impact your life.

Santa Maria College graduate Claire Dodos (Class of 2016) knows this feeling all too well. It took her a couple of course changes to find her groove and complete a degree that satisfied her need to better understand the world. 

When Claire completed high school, she was torn between pursuing her two favourite subjects – Biology and English. Initially, she kicked off a degree in Biology to calm her ‘general millennial climate anxiety’. However, statistics and excel spreadsheets weren’t it for her, so she quickly transferred to Cultural and Literary studies.

It was in this course, that Claire collided with her true passion, anthropology.

“It was in one of my literature classes that I met an Anthropology major and learned how the field was focussed on understanding how societies work and what it means to be human across various cultures. I knew instantly that this was the place for me and transferred over.”, said Claire.

Six years on, she now has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Sociology, as well as First Class Honours in Cultural Anthropology. Oh, and not to mention, has only completed one spreadsheet so far!

You may ask, what is her biggest piece of advice in getting here? According to Claire, it is all about pursuing what is of interest to you, not the things you think are expected to or believe are ‘safe’ options.

“I have never regretted studying Anthropology, as I’m always interested in my work, of which there’s an abundance! It’s a complete fallacy that there are no jobs in the Arts. I can assure you that we’re in high demand, and we’re definitely not looking at spreadsheets either!”, said Claire.

If you can’t already tell how passionate Claire is about humanities and social sciences, it is reflected in all that she has accomplished. 

Aside from making the Vice Chancellors List on multiple occasions throughout her studies, she was also awarded First Class Honours, the highest possible score that can be achieved, for her research project.

“In Anthropology, an Honours project is self-directed, providing the opportunity to publish your own independent research and become an anthropologist”, said Claire.

Throughout her bachelor’s degree, Claire dedicated a lot of her time on Country with Elders, learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture from the land. Consequently, her Honours thesis focussed on Rio Tinto’s calculated destruction of the Putuu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people’s sacred Juukan Gorge, revealing the oppression of Aboriginal rights in Australian legislation.

In light of her research, Claire was awarded with the Berndt Memorial Prize.

Claire talked to us a little bit about what being awarded this prestigious title means.

“For the Berndt Memorial Prize, each university must first submit their chosen candidate based on academic and research rankings to the Anthropological Society. They then select the candidate who they believe has contributed the greatest to Australian anthropological research”, said Claire.

“Being awarded this prize is an incredible academic honour that I could not be more grateful to have received. It’s really humbling knowing that a field I have so much admiration and interest in acknowledges my work as valuable within their space.”

What does Claire attribute to her success?

She emphasised that above all else, her time at Santa Maria sparked a desire to live life filled with passion and curiosity.

“I recall my Years 11 and 12 English classes with Ms Morey as particularly impactful, as she really encouraged us to explore perspectives that were challenging or uncomfortable. I remember looking forward to every single one of those classes and I think this desire to explore what makes us human back then, has directly impacted my career choice.”, said Claire.

She added, “I also must mention the impact the Music Department had on my time at the College. Although Mr K might remember me (fondly I hope) by the havoc I incited daily in the McAuley Building, music was always a reminder that you should enjoy what you do and not take life too seriously.”

Claire’s advice to current Santa Maria students is to “get involved in everything and anything that interests you.”

“The more you participate in life around you, the more doors that are going to open and lead you down paths you never knew existed. There are so many opportunities out there for those who are looking for them, so talk to as many people and join as many clubs, committees, organisations, or units that ignite any curiosity in you.”, she said. 

With Claire having accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, we had to ask what her plans are for the future. 

“I hope that I get to continue working with First Nations peoples and be able to work internationally with people from cultures and lives different from my own. I’m also keen to do work on ancient sites across Europe and the Middle East as well. Hopefully, my Indiana Jones adventures aren’t too far away!”, said Claire.

I think we can all agree that we look forward to seeing all of this unfold. 

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Claire. Onward and upward!

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