Kylie hopes her industry PhD will make a tangible difference for secondary school students

For Kylie Kuppe, undertaking a PhD with an industry focus at La Trobe involves co-creating tangible change for young people coming through the secondary school system.

Kylie is part of a brand-new PhD program from La Trobe University’s School of Education that sees students embedded within partner schools for the duration of their studies. She will conduct her research in partnership with Parade College, a Catholic secondary boys’ school in Melbourne’s north.

Kylie’s research will focus on working with students and staff to imagine a future where difference is acknowledged and affirmed.

“I want to expose elements of this particular context that tend to close off or constrain the ability of individuals to become freely, and equally,” she says.

The Principal of Parade College, Mr Andy Kuppe, hopes the research will investigate ways to make sure boys coming through the school have a better understanding of masculinity in all its dimensions.

“We want to ask how we can make sure boys here at Parade College have an understanding of what it means to be a man in 2021 that’s not too narrow or restrictive.”

Mr Andy Kuppe

Kylie is personally invested in achieving outcomes for the school community, as she previously taught at the school for seven years.

“I know the school well,” she says. “My move into research grew out of a genuine interest in education in general, in Catholic education in particular, and specifically from an interest in making a contribution that might enhance the experience of students at Parade College.”

Kylie hopes her research may offer new possibilities for the development of the school, and that some new approaches to spaces, to student wellbeing and even to policy or curriculum, might result.

In addition to creating direct impact at the school, Kylie’s PhD will contribute to wider research on the topic.

“I’m sure that there will be many aspects that others will take note of and that could be helpful in similar environments,” she says.

Teaching to research: Kylie’s story

Whilst Melbourne was enduring its second lockdown during 2020, Kylie received some unexpected news. She was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and underwent a major operation and a round of chemotherapy.

“The prognosis is good, and undertaking this PhD is a welcome change of pace and focus, as well as an opportunity to develop important skills and knowledge that will hopefully benefit myself and others,” she says.

Kylie’s journey to this point hasn’t followed a direct path into research or teaching. She grew up and completed secondary school in country Victoria, before making her way to Melbourne and studying for an Arts degree.

“I focused on the ‘ologies’: psychology, criminology and anthropology, interrupted by a little bit of history and philosophy,” she says.

After a couple of years in the workforce, Kylie made her way back to university to do a Graduate Diploma of Education and then a Graduate Diploma of Educational Psychology. She also completed a Masters degree in Social Work.

“I’ve studied at the University of Melbourne, Monash University, Australian Catholic University and now La Trobe!”

Most of Kylie’s professional life has involved teaching and pastoral care in the Catholic education system.

“From my Catholic upbringing and education, I inherited a strong sense of social justice that is an important lens for me in everything I do,” she says. “In Catholic education today, we are challenged to look beyond our own gates to consider the big picture of how we educate and agitate for social change in society and in the world.”

An interest in this big picture has taken Kylie to experiences in the Philippines, Africa and India. She has an ongoing interest in Edmund Rice Education Beyond Borders, where schools within an international network share experiences, resources and different perspectives with each other.

“My students and I have had the privilege of being on video calls with people from Buenos Aires to Kolkata to Nairobi and beyond. But it is important that social justice for Catholic schools is not just about fundraising and advocating for others outside our gates. It is my strong opinion that we must continually question practices and assumptions that impact the experiences of people within our own school communities.”

Kylie is passionate about education and the diversity of experience it brings.

“The energy and enthusiasm of young people is infectious, and I love being part of an extended school community of teachers, students and families,” she says.

“This PhD offers a wonderful opportunity to work with a place that is openly committed to research, and that’s so invested in becoming a better environment for the flourishing of all students and staff.”

Kylie has a desk at Parade College and support from staff at the school. She will also be matched with a staff mentor in a position relevant to her research focus.

“I’m the kind of person who just gets immersed in whatever they are doing at the time,” she says. “For now, completing this PhD is the priority and doing it in a way that might be tangibly beneficial to Parade College.”

“I would absolutely recommend this industry PhD for those who are passionate about a topic or industry and are reasonably self-motivated.”

Find out more about La Trobe’s Industry PhD program

Explore La Trobe University’s industry PhD program on our website and view available scholarships.

Find out about our School of Education’s current PhD scholarship with Charles La Trobe College.