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Jenna Parkin blazes a trail

Outstanding academic results can take you a long way, but the true value of an education extends beyond the realm of the classroom. ACG Parnell College offers a holistic education, supporting students to thrive not just academically but also socially and emotionally. We prepare students to become positive and productive global citizens - and 2021 ACG Founders’ Scholarship winner Jenna Parkin is a shining example.

Now in her second year of a Bachelor of Science majoring in software and computing systems, Jenna has embraced everything that life at the University of Melbourne offers. 

Not only has she aced it academically (finishing 2022 with a first-class honours weighted average mark), but she’s a Senior RA (Residential Assistant), a Student Ambassador, a Girl Guiding Victoria volunteer, and a member of the Melbourne University Sport Cheer and Dance team (which placed first at State level). She’s a member of the Competitive Programming Club, Women in STEM club, and the Computing & Information Systems Students Association – and she’s even joined the Cast on Charity Group, selling handmade craft creations to raise funds for charity.

The ACG Founders’ Scholarship – valued at up to $75,000 - has afforded Jenna the freedom to make the most of every moment, and she hasn’t wasted a second.

Jenna, what are the different ways this scholarship has benefitted you so far?
The ACG Founders’ scholarship has been so valuable in ensuring optimal focus on study in 2022. I love my part-time job as the Senior RA of Lisa Bellear House but having extra time to focus on university study or developing individual coding projects has been so valuable. I was also able to purchase some technical equipment which made assignments and personal coding projects easier to complete.

How quickly did you settle into life in Melbourne?
I was apprehensive about moving to a new country but thanks to the support of the university, getting involved with student life, and developing some significant friendships, I’ve loved settling in. The year came with a lot of personal growth and opportunities to highlight the values I appreciate. I learnt that if you get involved in clubs, councils or sports teams your network will grow quickly. Attending tutorials and volunteer classes is also a great way to stay ahead and meet like-minded people.

What have you enjoyed most so far?
Learning such a diverse amount about the technology sector! In ‘Linear Algebra’, we used MATLAB as a modelling tool. In ‘AI, Ethics and the Law’ we examined the prevalence of artificial intelligence and debated the ethics of it becoming commonplace. Meanwhile in coding subjects, I practiced algorithm development, Python, C++, and big O notation. 

What were the challenges?
Large-scale coding projects have been the most challenging aspect of my degree thus far. Debugging a 500-line code to fix an error can be a tiring and tedious process. Lecturers are very particular, and it takes a lot of thinking, brainstorming sessions, and hand-drawn flow charts!

What are you looking forward to most in 2023?
This semester I’m taking some technical subjects to develop my knowledge of the programming language Java. Entering my second year as a Senior RA provides an exciting leadership opportunity to welcome a new year of residents. I’m also looking forward to competing in more hackathons and competitive programming competitions. Overall, I’m excited to gain knowledge and experience to progress toward working in the tech industry and developing tools to protect New Zealand’s cyberspace.

So, you’re still aiming to come back to New Zealand and work in cybersecurity?
Absolutely! My criminology and cybercrime courses have developed my understanding of the power of technology in criminal fields. Cyber security is so valuable in New Zealand – the NZ Government’s Computer Emergency Response Team responded to 2,333 cybersecurity threats in 2022. I’m excited to eventually be part of this protection.

But first you need to complete your studies. Will you stay in Melbourne for that?
Currently I love living in Melbourne but I’m excited to see where the future takes me. I’m interested in completing a post-graduate qualification at Cambridge University as I was inspired after connecting with the computer studies professors during the interview process and being offered a place in their undergraduate programme.

What advice would you give to other ACG students looking to study at the University of Melbourne?
The University of Melbourne curriculum requires enrolling in breadth subjects. These are subjects not part of your major to give you a more holistic perspective on your degree. My advice would be to use this opportunity to pick subjects that relate to the career you want. I’ve been taking criminology and digital law subjects, tying in with my goal to work in cyber security, which means I’ll graduate with a minor in criminology. I think it’s a valuable way to join the workforce with extra knowledge and experience.

*The ACG Founders' Scholarship is awarded not only on outstanding academic ability, but personal qualities for future success. It is open to any domestic ACG College student in New Zealand who plans to commence a course of university study the following year.