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March 1, 2021

Connected and creative

The University of Adelaide is turning its historical kinship with the arts into a cutting-edge educational advantage. By evolving long-standing arts industry relationships, the institution is creating invaluable on-the-job opportunities for students.

More than a century ago, the University of Adelaide was already an arts leader.

It was the first in the nation to offer degrees in music, and continues to be the only institution with an Indigenous Music program.


This article was produced in collaboration with the University of Adelaide.

While still known for its rigorous arts teaching, the university refuses to rest on reputation. Instead, it is pushing to find new ways for students to connect with industry through partnerships with some of Adelaide’s biggest arts organisations. 

This Mad March marks six years since the University first teamed up with the Adelaide Fringe, and three years since it began a relationship with the Adelaide Festival.

These relationships provide unprecedented opportunities behind the scenes – something current and former students like Cassie Ackerman and Rachel Healy say has a lasting impact that can’t be overstated. 

Now the joint artistic director of Adelaide Festival and an architect of the current partnership with The University of Adelaide, Rachel Healy says her early arts experiences at the university were central to her success.


CityMag: What did you study?
Rachel Healy: I studied both law and arts from 1987-1990.  I spent all of my teenage years wanting to be an actor, but my parents certainly emphasised how important it was to have a degree to ‘fall back on’.

How important was your experience at The University of Adelaide in building your career?
It was absolutely the catalyst.

In my time at the University I became the theatre editor of OnDit – that was the crucial stepping stone to securing my first job as assistant editor of Lowdown Magazine – a youth arts magazine run out of Carclew.

There were very close parallels in the work I was doing in the magazine and in arts management… it was really what set me on this path. 

Why did you want to include student placements in the Festival’s partnership with the University of Adelaide?
I had a great sense of the opportunity that existed between the Festival and the uni. We both bring the best from across the world and give it a platform here in Adelaide. 

This six-week internship is for students from all over the university – law, business development, arts, even environmental science – to get some experience during a thrilling time for the organisation, as we prepare for a festival. It’s exactly the kind of opportunity I would have walked over cut glass to access at that age.

Why do you think it’s important for universities to engage with the arts?
The universities that I think are going to be most successful and provide the largest riches to their student populations are the ones looking externally, not internally: Those finding ways to grab knowledge and bring it on campus and also providing opportunities for their students to get off campus and get valuable real-world experience.


Student Cassie Ackerman’s internship experiences have allowed her to find a job in the arts even before completing her degree.

What did you study?
Cassie Ackerman: I did a Bachelor of Media with marketing as my major. I’m actually not finished yet – I still have six months left. 

How important was your experience at The University of Adelaide in building your career?
In my first and second year, I tried lots of things – I did internships with a digital solutions company, I worked in market research, and then I picked the Adelaide Festival internship, which was a business development placement.

It helped me work out that I really enjoyed marketing and events. 

Now, I have a job as the Marketing Coordinator at the Adelaide Festival Centre, and my role is really broad. There are elements from all the internships I did that I have taken into this job.

What did you take away from your six-week placement at the Adelaide Festival?
My internship was right in the middle of the Festival itself. We were doing events with partners – stakeholders like sponsors, lots of behind the scenes work at functions and events. I really felt like I had achieved something from being a part of the events. 

Adelaide Festival was also fantastic for networking – I’ve met the people who are in charge of most of  Adelaide’s big events and people from the Festival gave me references for my current role. 

Why do you think it’s important for universities to engage with the arts?
The arts in Adelaide are huge – the effect the arts has on the public; creative expression and bringing people together is really important, and I think it strengthens the community. From an education point of view, I think it’s really essential that you’re getting the younger generation involved with that.

To find out how the University of Adelaide is keeping the arts centre stage visit the website.

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