Sharon Mark

  • Bachelor of Arts (Communication)


A life-long learner, New Plymouth’s Sharon Mark has found a new door opening for her each time she completed a qualification with the Open Polytechnic.

Originally beginning her learning journey in the 1990s, Sharon then went on to complete an adult education qualification to gain a promotion as a staff trainer and health and safety officer at a local retirement village.

Having just completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Communication, the busy mother of three says the flexibility of distance study worked “beautifully” for her.  “I could open up my laptop and study where and when it suited me.”

It wasn’t just the need to continue to earn a living which attracted Sharon to distance learning.  Being visually impaired, studying in her own environment was vital to continuing her education.

Because a large number of her study resources were available on the Polytechnic’s Online Campus, Sharon was able to increase the text size on her computer screen so resources were easier to read.  She also enjoyed discussing her studies with fellow students on the web forums.

“I originally started my degree studies because I wanted to gain a qualification that would either propel me towards better employment opportunities within the aged-care industry, or to find employment outside the industry”, says Sharon.

“I knew I had the brains for it, but needed to be able to prove it with a significant qualification.  If you have a disability of any sort you often feel pressured to constantly prove yourself before you can get anywhere and be taken seriously.”

As part of her degree studies she was required to gain practical experience in a communication area that interested her.  Sharon chose writing.  Her tutors connected her with Carers New Zealand and Sharon was able to combine her professional experience as a caregiver with her writing talents to produce a number of articles for their Family Care magazine.  They have now asked her to become a regular contributor.

“My studies have opened up a lot of possibilities for me and I have found it empowering”, says Sharon.  “I like to think of my writing experience as a gateway to a new career.  It’s been a life-altering experience for me – I never thought of a journalism career before.”

One of the biggest things I have learnt from all these years of study is to try new things - you never know what will happen.”

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