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Mature-aged student Ruth’s secret to success? Horsepower!

This article appears in: Changing careers, Exercise and Sport Science, Online study
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Ruth McConigley’s journey to academic and entrepreneurial success has taken as many turns as a barrel rider. Ruth has transitioned from teacher to student to successful businesswoman—all while juggling married life, two young daughters, and a stable full of horses. Now living in the small town of Denmark on the south coast of Western Australia, Ruth reflects on how it all came to be.

“Before I studied at Charles Darwin University I was a nursing academic. I taught mainly postgrad nursing and my research area was cancer and palliative care. I loved being a researcher, but I missed patient contact, hence my decision to study again.”

In what can be described as a bold change of direction, Ruth enrolled in a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at CDU as a mature-aged student. “It was a strange transition for me. I went from being a university lecturer to suddenly being a student again.”

It was also a financial challenge going from the security of a full-time income to student life, so Ruth worked part-time to help pay the bills.

But even with the challenges, Ruth found it “wonderful to get a chance to explore a whole new world after years in the same profession.”

I loved being a student at Charles Darwin University. CDU allowed me to study from home and was really flexible. There were so many interesting things to learn. I found the lectures really interesting and got lost for hours looking things up and putting it all together in my head.

“And I was surprised how relaxed it all was. The standards at CDU were high but it didn’t feel like any of the universities I had been involved with in the past. Staff were friendly and approachable, and nothing was too much trouble.

“The thing I loved most was that the assignments were flexible—you got to choose your sport. So, I wrote a lot of essays about horses. My husband was sure that I wasn’t really studying at all. It was too much fun!”

After graduating CDU, Ruth continued her studies with a Master’s in Clinical Exercise Physiology and she’s now an accredited exercise physiologist in her hometown of Denmark.

“I think there are great opportunities to be creative in the field of exercise physiology because it’s so new. I run a small but thriving practice. I see mainly older people who have chronic pain or other chronic illnesses and help them manage their conditions with appropriate exercise. I also teach Pilates, and I work closely with the local doctors and the recreation centre, and I get great support.


Ruth McConigley

“The most exciting side of my practice is the opportunity to expand the equestrian side of what I do—working with horse riders to improve their riding and help older riders to stay fit and healthy and remain in the saddle. My aim is to make my community happier and healthier one person—and one squat—at a time!” Ruth added.


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