Lisa Rice, manager of student scholarships as well as the Academic Coordinator for the Elite Athlete Program and Sports Academy students


Over the last few months, I have been collating a series of interviews featuring students within the UNE Sports Academy. The interviews have covered an array of topics, from discussion’s about their sports, their involvement in the academy and their studies. Many of the students mentioned how the Academy’s academic support has been a vital part of their journey,  helping them to find the best ways possible ensuring they can juggle their dual careers as students and as representative sportspeople.

Lisa Rice is the current manager of student scholarships as well as the Academic Coordinator for the Elite Athlete Program and Sports Academy students. If there is anyone who knows how to show you the ways to get the most out of the ‘UNE Experience’ it’s Lisa…

What is the full UNE Experience you may ask? Keep reading to find out…

Your role at UNE is managing student scholarships, can you tell me a bit about what your work involves in this department?

My official title is, manager of student scholarships. It’s more than just scholarships that I look after, but from the scholarship perspective, we do all the student-facing administration for scholarships across the university. This doesn’t include high degree research scholarships, but most of the other scholarships sit within my area.

The Scholarships, Prizes, and Awards team are also responsible for the New England AwardVice Chancellor’s Scholars awards, Vice Chancellor’s High Achievement Prize, as well as many other prizes awarded across the University.

What is the Elite Athlete Program you are involved in?

UNE is part of the Elite Athlete Friendly University network, initiated by the Australian Institute of Sport. There is quite a lot of universities that participate, so we are endeavouring to provide additional flexibility and support for student-athletes. Because sporting careers can sometimes be short-lived, we want to encourage our sporting athletes to have a plan B.

Our philosophy is to educate for a life after sport, and this program gives them a “playing field”. Meaning there are options for us to help them negotiate extensions on their assignments or extra flexibilities within their studies so that they can pursue their sporting endeavours whilst completing a degree.

How long have you been working at the University?

I hit the sixteen-year mark in January this year!  I moved to Armidale from the Central Coast twenty-five years ago to study a Bachelor of Science. It was here that I met my husband and I guess I have never turned back.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Helping students – and by that, I mean helping students embrace the full UNE experience. The students that I talk to, whether it be a scholarship recipient or an elite athlete, they are just not aware of the services and programs available to them at the University.

Can online students still have the full UNE Experience?

You can definitely still have the UNE experience if you are an online student because it is not specific to on-campus students. University is so much more than just getting a degree – it’s also making life-long friends, developing other skills, getting involved whether it be at college or whether it be participating in committees or workshops, or doing volunteer work, within the university or in your local community. No matter where you are, you can get so much more out of your degree than just the educational components and be rewarded for it, with the New England Award.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

No two days are the same in my office. One day can be completely engulfed with focus on scholarships and the next I could have back to back appointments with students; touching base with them and making sure they are on track with their requirements.

My days are completely varied, and I have so many different hats which makes my job so interesting.

In what ways do scholarships help in supporting students with their studies at UNE?

Scholarships support students financially – they target students who may be in a rural or regional area, who may identify with a disability or could be financially disadvantaged. The money (from a scholarship) makes a big difference when you put it into perspective. As an example, the additional expenses of textbooks and even the internet can be out of reach for many struggling students or families, and these scholarships allow those struggling students to continue their studies without extra financial stress.

 So, I know you’re very driven, tell us about some of the goals you have within your work?

I want to increase the profile of scholarships, prizesand awards across the University whilst making them more transparent so that the students can easily see what is available to them.

There is a misconception that scholarships are only for elite students or athletes and we need to break down those barriers and get the message out there that it’s not just for students who got a ninety in the HSC but are in fact, quite attainable in their academic requirements.

So, for students interested in a scholarship all I can say is put an application in, you may surprise yourself.

How would you describe Sports Academy to a future student?

It’s a program by which students who are sports-minded aspire to be the best they can in a particular sport whilst also studing a degree. The Sports Academy not only allows, but encourages them to achieve both of these goals.

As the academic mentor for each student within the academy, how do you help them find the balance between study and sport?

The Sports Academy students have huge sporting commitments required of them on top of attending class – it’s an understatement to say they have tight schedules – many of the student-athletes play several sports and it just blows my mind.

My role within the Academy is to check in with each of the Sports Academy students at various time during the trimester, to be a point of contact if they need advice or are struggling, and most importantly to provide each student with the skills and services that can help them with their multiple commitments.

I’m big on budgeting – unlike money, there’s no credit card to give you a few extra hours to get you through the day. When I sit down with each Academy student at the beginning of a trimester, I will ask them how many hours a day they spend sleeping, studying, training, and we create a time budget.

 The Academy is in its second year, how did you first get involved with the Academy?

As I was already involved with the elite athlete program, it was a no brainer when David Schmude approached me to take on the role – it was really an extension of what I do with the elite athlete program.

What are some of the challenges you see students face when balancing a dual career?

There’s many, but the top three are probably…

  1. Sport is everything to these students, it’s their outlet, it’s what makes them happy, and injury can have a huge mental impact on the athletes. If they can’t play sport, they tend to lose motivation and don’t want to do anything, they need that sport to be able to focus.
  2. Time management is another huge challenge – some of the students have no hours free within the week because they are so overcommitted. This is where organisation and balance are important Study Gym sessions can assist students in these areas and I highly recommend them to all the athlete students. If they maintain the balance and be as organised as possible then they have every chance of success.
  3. The third challenge for student-athletes is uncertainty. The commitment to travel for a sportsperson is phenomenal, and depending on the sport, they may not know that far in advance when they might be travelling to the next competition. It can really depend on how well they perform in a current competition as to whether they qualify for the next one. This makes it extremely difficult to plan and to be organised if you don’t know the results so far ahead.

What advice can you offer future students who want to continue with their representative sport or extra-curricular interests while transitioning towards tertiary education?

Seek out programs like the Sports Academy because they are in place to provide specific support tailored to your needs.

The challenges that sporting people face are real and there is support available. If it can be made easier for you through the Sports Academy, you’d be crazy not to sign up.

How important is finding time to do leisure activities?

Extremely important, your schedule won’t work without it. Somethings got to give at the end of the day, and you will burn yourself into the ground if you don’t have time for you. I always mention to the students to find time for you – a lot of them will say “oh well sport is my time, it’s my thing” – yet I push them to have something else. Even if it’s just two hours on Friday night to watch Netflix or Saturday morning coffee with a friend, you need to find something for you to relax.

How does a time budget help students meet all of their commitments?

The time budget I create with each Sports Academy student puts their commitments into perspective. If you add up all the hours you spend studying, working, training, and sleeping, most students fill up their 168 hours of their week without even touching on social commitments, college activities, showering, driving and even eating.  We only have 168 hours a week, if you can’t fit everything in then something has got to give. Don’t cut one thing out completely, it could be as simple as trying to get out of bed earlier or cutting back some hours at work.

An important thing to remember is that having a time budget or routine each week can help you to be organised, but you need to also be flexible. If something happens and you lose an hour of study to something else – you can look at your schedule at a glance and work out if maybe there is an hour on the weekend you can fit that in instead to make up for it.

What is your advice for a student who may feel overwhelmed by seeing multiple assessments due around similar dates or feel they are falling behind in their coursework?

Seek advice and do it sooner rather than later.

I would recommend a study gym session to help you find the crux of the problem. They are a short half-hour session run by our counsellors who are qualified in helping students advance their study skills and tailor half-hour sessions that can even be done over the phone – that way all students can access them. Study gym is dedicated to focusing on study skills that you want to hone, or that you may need assistance with. Some examples are overcoming your procrastination, increasing motivation, time management skills, memory skills, or overcoming anxiety with a presentation or exams. I give a recommendation to the Academy students to sign up for several – one at the beginning of the trimester to help them with their time budget and send them off into their studies as organised as possible. Another session I would recommend would be after the trimester break, so that it sets them up a study plan leading into exams.

To book a study gym session head to the UNE website 👉🏻 current students 👉🏻 support – it has almost everything a student needs! Just click here!

Where can students who are not part of the academy go for academic support?

The Academic Skills Office is an essential resource for all UNE students. From one on one sessions with an ASO lecturer to online workshops, fact sheets, and assignment feedback services, they are a must for any student.

A big thank you goes out to Lisa Rice and the scholarship office who help a wide range of our students, including our Sports Academy student-athletes on their journey at UNE!