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Image: CBE

Image: CBE

The Flying Student

25 July 2019

4 minute read

Nearly a 100 trips between Canberra and Cairns, over 250,000 kilometres in air travel, and finally a Master’s degree in Business Administration.

Such was the unique perseverance and academic journey of Ben Mitchell, a father of eight and a recent graduate from the Australian National University’s College of Business and Economics (CBE).

“For 18 months I would fly in and fly out of Canberra every week. I was solely driven by my passion to boost the business landscape for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” said Ben, who belongs to the Meriam and Mualgal peoples of the Eastern and Western Torres Straits.

From February 2018, when he commenced his Master program, Ben had conceived a routine that would allow him to maximise his balancing act between work, family and studies.

As classes were on weekdays, Ben would stay in a suburban Canberra hotel for four days a week before flying back to see his family in Cairns.

The academic knowledge that you gain in a classroom is palpable 

“A typical week in Canberra for me would start in the wee hours where I would study between 4.30 am until 8 am, followed by work as an advisor for Coolamon Advisors, a think tank on Indigenous Affairs and then classes in the evening. This was the routine that I had to discipline myself into following and I fortunately did,” Ben said.

As an entrepreneur, Ben has attained diverse experience extending from pearl diving and exporting seafood overseas to creating business development systems for small and medium enterprises. However, as an entrepreneur he gradually felt motivated to “extensively expand” his business acumen, with a focus on his community. That’s when he turned his attention to ANU.

“The purpose of wanting to pursue a Masters degree was dual: to upscale my skills and advance the interests of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. For these reasons, ANU was the ideal choice,” Ben added.

A recipient of the MBA scholarship, Ben believes that through the entire classroom environment, he learnt a lot from his lecturers, peers and assignments.

“The academic knowledge that you gain in a classroom is palpable. In my case, I was constantly using my classroom knowledge at work and then using my work experience to shape my academic knowledge. Both were feeding off each other and I gained immensely from that experience. I would have either two or three layovers to fly to Canberra every week to attend my classes but it was absolutely worth it,” Ben said.

I received invaluable support at ANU and the Tjabal Centre that gave me the courage and comfort to hop on and off planes to attend my classes

Moreover, he also emphasised on the lessons he learnt outside of the classroom, especially with respect to the value of time.

“Every hour would make a difference and was always of high value. I was always on the clock for something and that increased my efficiency. For instance, I found the best way to write my assignments in a timely manner was when I was in a plane. The flight was time bound, and as a consequence so was my ability to complete my assignments,” Ben added.

Following his ANU experience, Ben feels he has come a long way from being the voice for Centrelink’s helpline number 136 380 to receiving the 2009 North Queensland Father of the Year award.

“My entire experience at ANU, including all the invaluable support I received from the Tjabal Centre provided me courage and comfort to continue hoping on and off planes. The journey was eye opening and irreplaceable,” he said. 

The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs in Master of Business Administration. Click here for more details.

Updated:   11 February 2020 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team