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"My work does partly involve researching archives; however, it entails much more than that - it includes undertaking fieldwork in urban bushland areas, interviewing people, reading widely on both historical and current issues, travelling overseas frequently, attending conferences, writing books and papers. I have taught Australian history at a secondary school level," Valerie said.
"As an historian I enjoy learning about Australia's social and natural environments and I get to meet so many people concerned with the quality of their environment, both in Australia and overseas. I love being able to follow a research trail and then share the knowledge I have gained from this with others," she said.
Valerie graduated from Deakin's Melbourne campus at Burwood in 2005 with a Doctor of Philosophy, having previously completed Arts and Education degrees with the University of Melbourne.
She chose Deakin for her PhD on the basis of her youngest daughter's experience as an undergraduate at the University.
"I decided to study with Deakin because my youngest daughter had undertaken a degree there and I was impressed with the quality of the teaching and supervision - I was also very aware of Deakin's high standards in the Australian Studies area. Deakin supported my proposed research area and subsequently offered me the opportunity to undertake my PhD," she said.
"The things I really enjoyed about Deakin were the regular and enlightening meetings with my supervisors and their level of encouragement. I was able to attend international conferences and present papers at them and was also given the chance to attend and contribute to two Deakin postgraduate seminars. I especially liked the study environments at the Geelong and Melbourne campuses and the quality and helpfulness of the staff," she said.
Valerie's career highlights include publishing her first book with Cambridge University Press; working with local historian Graeme Disney on their highly successful book, Bayside reflections: history and heritage of Sandringham, Hampton, Black Rock and Beaumaris; and being the head of humanities at Victorian secondary school Mentone Girls' Grammar, which included both classroom teaching and curriculum development. She has also taught at Korowa, Fintona, Firbank Grammar and Brighton Secondary College.
Valerie believes Deakin helped to further her career as an historian and also to nurture numerous research contacts around the world.
"Deakin gave me the opportunity to study, undertake research and write a demanding thesis in a supportive environment. It allowed me to work with people skilled in my field and to learn from their knowledge and expertise - it gave me the opportunity to meet many different people working in similar fields to me," she said.
Valerie plans to continue her research and study of Australian environmental history and - in between the demands of an enjoyable family life and pursuits such as bushwalking, gardening, theatre and tennis - hopes to find the time to write another book.