Baby on board

When baby Piper arrived, Emma Howe was acing her Masters of Physiotherapy studies with near-perfect scores. Thanks to the support she received at UQ, she juggled her academic momentum with motherhood to graduate as valedictorian with a GPA of 6.59 . . .

Read Emma's full story, Juggling a masters and motherhood, on the UQ Health Hub.

My name is Emma Howe and I am a graduate of the Master of Physiotherapy program in the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences. My road to becoming a graduate has taken a few minor detours but I am so thankful that I am here today.

Emma, Piper and Piper's father David.

As I was putting my valedictory speech together, I found myself reflecting over the last few years of being a student at The University of Queensland.

I am sure that many of the students here today can resonate with me when I remember the days and nights spent studying in the biological sciences library, weekends spent juggling working while trying to study and manage a social life, the multiple early morning coffee stops at Darwin’s coffee shop, the emotions surrounding the lead-up to exam block and then the relief when that was finally over (until the next semester of course).

I am (and I hope there are other people in the room like me) a very planned and organised character. When I set out to complete this degree I had my life plan in check. The course outline states it would take two years to complete. It would be a straight road to graduation and then I would get a job working full time. 

After summer semester, I began to realise the amount of commitment I had to have for my studies. Studying consumed my life. I had a very narrow focus on where I was headed and what I wanted to achieve.

In the final year of the program, lecturers started to talk to us as if we were physiotherapists, asking questions that patients would ask and preparing us for clinical placements. It was such an exciting time. I speak on behalf of the other students in saying that we were beginning to see ourselves as physiotherapists.

Then my life plan decided to take a detour. During semester one in my final year I found out that I was pregnant. What was my new life plan going to be? Would I be able to graduate?

Expressing breast milk while on practical placement.

With the support from the university and its staff, I am able to stand here before you as a graduate, with my nine-month-old baby.  My time spent at UQ made me realise that if you think and believe you can do something, you can do it, even if there are minor detours in your journey.

There were many times I felt it would be easier to give up, and, I think in life there will be times we all feel it would be easier to give up. But we must push forward, and believe that we can achieve.

We have learnt how to juggle studying, working, a social life and even sporting commitments and we have all worked very hard to get to where we are today. In some way the juggling act, that multi-tasking, has slightly prepared me for motherhood.

Becoming a parent is my biggest achievement to date. I truly believe that the determination, hard work and commitment needed to complete a degree helps to instill lifelong skills that can be taken with you into the future and can be applied to all aspects of your life.

Congratulations to my colleagues and friends in the graduating class. I am sure that, for you like me, there will be many minor detours on your upcoming journeys, but if you think and believe you can do something, you can.

Last updated:
2 August 2016