Struggles, as well as the successes, need to be seen and celebrated, says Caitlin Baard who recently won the AUT Edge Leadership Prize for semester one.
“It is easy to see a person who’s ‘succeeded’ in something and feel alienated, believing they are always exceptional. But that is truly impossible,” says Caitlin, an AUT Public Health and Environmental Sciences graduate.
Her journey into tertiary study, and then at AUT, has been fraught at times. Caitlin failed her high school exams because of mental health struggles, especially anxiety. This meant she didn’t get University Entrance, but, with support from her teachers who knew she was capable and bright, she was accepted into AUT under special admission.
Caitlin says she developed a lot of resilience studying at AUT because she knew she could seek support.
“AUT accepted me, then continued to support me as my mental health slowly improved. My grades weren't great in 1st year either because progress takes time. I needed counselling, extensions, encouragement and understanding from AUT - and I got it.”
Caitlin is keen to share her story because she wants people to see that it is possible to get through struggles and do well.
The AUT Edge Award was part of the catalyst to becoming resilient, particularly in leadership. Caitlin worked well beyond the award’s required 18 leadership hours for a start-up called Canopy, a group that is pushing for authentic body inclusivity in Australasian fashion and media businesses.
She realised, as a leader, she could set the culture of the team and encouraged people to share their emotional state to better support each other.
“You become resilient by being vulnerable. When you are alone your problems become magnified, but people can bear a lot more stress when they work together.”
As a neurodivergent woman, Caitlin found it empowering to develop her employability and leadership skills.
“Most people on the spectrum are unemployed or underemployed. Now I feel competent and ready to defy anyone who would see me only for what they think autism is. I have power because I feel employable and I’m becoming okay with being different.”
To access AUT counselling and mental health services, you can: Email firstname.lastname@example.org/ phone 921 9292 or text 1737 (this text number is free and answered 24/7)
To find out know more about the AUT Edge Award, email email@example.com
Written by Angela McCarthy, AUT Employability & Careers writer