No Boulder too big

Move over Mad Men – the next Don Draper is coming, and she’s a woman. Mikayla Dennelly has trained her sights on setting the advertising world on fire, and she has the ambition, energy and drive to do just that.

“That’s my end goal; to be a creative so renowned in my field that head-hunters seek me out,” she laughs.

Mikayla is in the final two semesters of her UOW Bachelor of Communication and Media degree, majoring in marketing and advertising and with minors in journalism and psychology. It’s a lot to pack in, but all the pieces combine to open up a world of prospects.

“I love advertising, it’s my passion; and when it comes to marketing a product, having an understanding of the psychology, of how a consumer works innately, makes all the difference in doing the best possible job,” Mikayla explains.

And her world is about to get a whole lot bigger. Mikayla is the first Australian-based recipient of the UOW USA Foundation Alumni Travel Grant, and will spend the next semester on exchange at the University of Colorado Boulder at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. She flies out on 18 August.

“I put down Boulder as my number one preference, but I honestly didn’t think I’d get it. In my interview I was told it was one of the most competitive colleges because the school is amazing and Boulder is a party town with incredible skiing, outdoors and music scenes, so everyone applies for it. I was so excited when I got the news; I feel incredibly lucky.”

Wollongong born and bred, Mikayla says she will miss family, friends and the stunning beaches she grew up on, but is wholeheartedly embracing this opportunity for bigger horizons, bright futures and global connections.

“I’m excited to be outside of my comfort zone because I think that’s where you grow the most,” she says.

“I’ve never been overseas, or even outside of Wollongong for longer than a couple of weeks, so this is going to be a major difference. I’m really looking forward to the fresh perspective on learning, because from what I’ve been told the structure is completely different, with small classes where you can really get to know your teachers and cohort.”

Mikayla believes that studying abroad will open up more career opportunities, both through demonstrating that she is willing to step outside everything she knows and adapt, and through growing her personal and professional networks.

“I learned early on when I was first looking for casual work at high school that landing jobs is about more than just your skills and qualifications,” she says.

“I would love to work overseas and building those contacts in person and jumping on LinkedIn making those connections is so important, particularly when it comes to marketing. Globalization has hit the industry really hard, so having great contacts in other countries could lead to all kinds of opportunities.”

But it won’t be all studying and network-building. Labelling herself as “sports obsessed” – Mikayla is Secretary of the UOW Snow Sports Society, plays rugby for the Mallee Bulls and has just returned from representing UOW at the Uni Games – she is beyond excited about the extracurricular activities soon to be on her doorstep. The campus itself boasts facilities from rooftop tennis courts and indoor climbing gyms to an ice-skating rink, swimming pools and a football stadium, while the outdoor delights of the Rocky Mountains are a stone’s throw away.

“I’m thinking we’ll be skiing every weekend, and getting amongst the hiking and the lakes and streams. There’s literally everything, all within around half an hour’s drive.”

Living out of home, with casual work only just covering rent and basic living expenses, Mikayla says that this opportunity of a lifetime would have passed her by without the aid of the grant, which provides $5,000 to one Australian student to study in the US and one US student to study at UOW each year. The funds can be used to supplement the cost of overseas travel and living, such as accommodation, food, textbooks and travel. It is thanks to the generosity of US-based UOW alumni that the UOW USA Foundation Alumni Travel Grant is possible.

“There’s no way I would have been able to have this experience without the grant. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that the UOW USA Foundation has given me.”

Story by Jenifer Waters