Alumni awards highlight the best and brightest of Griffith Business

Griffith Business School Building, Gold Coast campus
Griffith Business School Building, Gold Coast campus

The alumni of Griffith Business School are a particularly remarkable group, coming from all walks of life to learn the necessary skills to apply their knowledge in a variety of organisations and industries.

These four finalists in the annual Alumni Awards stand tall among their distinguished peers as representing the best of what our graduates achieve after leaving university.

Outstanding Alumnus Award Finalist

An international strategic business, investment and government affairs executive leader, Amanda Hodges has been taken around the world in her two-decade-long career, which started with a Bachelor of International Business Relations at Griffith University.

Upon completing her studies with Griffith in 1993, Amanda went on to study at both Korea University, in Seoul, and the University of Texas, in Austin. She has been employed by the Australian Government since 1997, holding positions in varied locations such as Sydney, Milan, Atlanta, Istanbul, Dubai, Canberra and Mumbai.

In her role in Seoul, Amanda manages a 20-person team of business development professionals with experience in trade, education and investment, as well as facilitating foreign direct investment from South Korea to Australian infrastructure, energy, resources, agribusiness and life sciences.

Outstanding Young Alumnus Award Finalist

Caitlin Pearson has spent the past six years making a difference in everyday people’s lives as the General Manager of Marketing and Engagement at Macarthur Disability Services, based out of Campbelltown, NSW.

Having first completed a Bachelor of Business – double-majoring in Event Management and Human Resource Management, with a minor in Marketing – at Griffith, Caitlin’s career trajectory has seen her work in marketing and events with organisations such as Warner Brothers Studios, Personnel Concept Australia, Campbelltown’s Western Suburbs Leagues Club and even her old stomping ground, Griffith itself.

In the past year alone, Caitlin has been acknowledged with a nationally recognised 2017 Not-for-profit Executive of the Year award, overseen fundraising increases of more than 50 per cent, undertook a major rebranding for Macarthur Disability Services, updated customer service strategies and increased event attendance by more than a third from 2016 to 2017.

She also has considerable experience as a volunteer, having lent her time to outdoor community event Christmas in Narellan (2013-14), the 600-person Business Event of the Year (2014-15) and the Greater Narellan Chamber of Commerce (2014-15).

Outstanding First Peoples Alumnus Award Finalist

Since graduating from Griffith Business School in 1996 with a major in Leisure Management, Delvene Cockatoo-Collins has gone on to become a renowned First Peoples artist, living and working on her family’s historic land of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island).

In choosing to study at Griffith, she says, an important factor was that her needs and wants – both cultural and educational – aligned with the University’s values.

“I felt the area of work that I was drawn to working in Aboriginal tourism/arts was very much embedded in the degree I applied for at Griffith,” Delvene says. “I knew those needs would be met; that I would gain the skills and knowledge needed to build a small business of my own someday.”

The proud Nunukul, Ngugi and Goenpul woman, from the Quandamooka region of south-east Queensland, is currently studying for her PhD in Creative Arts through the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

She has undertaken extensive work in her communities, having served as Aboriginal & Cultural Diversity Officer for the City of Port Adelaide Enfield Council in 2010, as well as being responsible for Community Engagement & Research at Brisbane’s Winangali from 2009-2012, and an active participant in projects with Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, on Minjerribah.

Most recently, Delvene earned international recognition after being selected to design the gold, silver and bronze medals presented to athletes at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, and her place as a finalist in the Griffith University Alumni Awards is another measure of recognition for her standout contributions to the community – one she is proud to receive.

Outstanding International Alumnus Award Finalist

One of Sri Lanka’s most successful hospitality professionals, hotel owner and Griffith Business School alumnus Thanuj De Alwis Goonewardena has been putting smiles on travellers’ faces for the better part of the past 30 years.

After graduating from Griffith’s Gold Coast campus in 1998, Thanuj returned to Sri Lanka to take over his family’s business. With his brothers, Thanuj turned the small family-run hotel into a 94-bedroom property known as Mega City Hotel, replete with two ballrooms, a restaurant, bar, gallery, spa and ample recreation spaces.

Consequent achievements came in the form of follow-up project Thilanka Resort and Spa, alongside two theme hotels, 15 bespoke boutique hotels, one hotel school and two elementary schools. He has also performed extensive restoration and renovation work – on an 1846 colonial racecourse, and on homes, galleries, and offices.

Away from his business pursuits, Thanuj has a significant history of philanthropy, having worked with five different non-profit organisations on projects addressing poverty alleviation, rehabilitation, sanitaiton, sustainable livelihood and emergency response.

In 2009, he was recognised with a Sri Lankan Presidential Award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and – almost a decade later – continues to be an active force in Sri Lankan tourism and recreation, serving as a member of both the Sri Lanka Travel & Tourism Association and the Graduates Association of the Sri Lanka Hotel & Tourism School.

Awards Night Gala

In a first for Griffith, the university will recognise four remarkable alumni for their outstanding achievements with the finalists in each academic area to be considered.

In the race for the Outstanding Alumni award, the already-known finalists in the Outstanding Alumni groups will be joined by Barry Thomas (GBS), Professor Paul Simshauser (GBS), Adjunct Professor Phillip Di Bella (GBS) and Dr Jay Gambetta (Science) who join the field for the overall Outstanding Alumnus Award.

Overall and group winners will be celebrated at a gala dinner on Friday, September 7 2018 in Brisbane.