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Graduation ceremony pure Bliss for inspirational uni student

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Each year, the University of Newcastle (UoN) graduation ceremonies deliver many uplifting stories.

And, 2021’s edition didn’t disappoint anyone either.

The first of nine services began on Monday 13 December at the Great Hall on Callaghan campus, with the final one taking place on Thursday 16 December.

But, for Bliss Cavanagh, who attained her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health Science, it was a momentous occasion on Tuesday.

Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at the age of nine, she spent her formative years trying to hide her condition from the unkind judgement of others.

It was a life-changing experiment during her fine art honours degree that enabled Bliss to see her Tourette’s as her most valued asset.

Amazingly, she graduated with the inaugural trans-disciplinary PhD that combines both art and health.

As a result, Bliss is now the founder of Creative Sensory Spaces.

It’s a business that unites art and health science to create powerful immersive therapeutic environments.

Compelled to understand if what she had discovered could benefit others, Bliss embarked on her PhD – the world’s first to examine the advantages of sensory rooms for the general population.

“There’s a growing evidence base on the benefits of sensory spaces for people managing conditions like mental illness, autism and dementia to name a few,” she said.

“We’ve now got evidence to show that these spaces also greatly help the general population by providing a deeply restorative environment.”

It’s no surprise that interest in Bliss’s signature sensory spaces is rapidly growing among the business and corporate sectors, particularly as organisations seek to support workforces overburdened by the impacts of the global pandemic.

There’s appeal for spaces in community settings such as airports, shopping centres and libraries, too.

“It’s essentially an intervention space, an opportunity for people to take time out and then re-enter the world at optimal capacity,” Bliss said.

“The senses are universal; we’ve all got them.

“They’re what shape our experience of life, so really they’re the most inclusive and accessible way to connect to each and every one of us.”

For Bliss, completing her PhD has been extremely rewarding and with the support of the Female Founders Program, she has developed the business knowledge to rapidly grow her team to allow her to undertake more projects in Australia and, eventually, offshore.

“It is powerful and inspiring to be able to see something that came out of my own personal experience transform into a real-world application that has the potential to create national change,” she said.

More than 3000 graduates will celebrate their significant academic achievements this week.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky AO said graduation was a momentous occasion and a key opportunity to acknowledge the feats of its gifted students.

“It is a wonderful time for celebration, and a time for pupils and their loved ones to reflect on their years of dedication and hard work,” he reflected.

Professor Zelinsky said he was extremely proud of this year’s cohort of graduating students who have not only completed their studies, an enormous accomplishment on its own, but had done so in an exceptionally challenging year with significant disruption to their learning.

“The skills our pupils have developed in their particular fields, as well as the broader resilience and adaptability that has come from studying during a pandemic, will serve them well as they move into a rapidly changing workforce,” he stated.

“I wish all of our graduates every success for their future and look forward to hearing their stories of success as they take on the world and progress in their careers.”

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