When a passion and marketing align: Liz Riley

25 Mar 2024
Liz Riley feeding penguins at Edinburgh Zoo

How an early interest in conservation and the environment led to a love of marketing for future students.

Liz Riley, Domestic Undergraduate Marketing Lead for Future Student Recruitment, says when she was in Year 6, she won a Walking Fact File Award about animals. 

“My first dream job when I was young was to be a zoologist and to save the tigers, but a careers advisor told me I wasn't strong enough in science. They said, ‘You're good at English and writing, why don't you look at something along those lines?’”

Liz says, at the time, there could have been more opportunities encouraging girls in STEM subjects.

“Just because you might not be strong in chemistry, there are other ways forward. But that's how I ended up studying communications and then working in publicity for Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland. 

“It was one of the most interesting and amazing jobs I've had. Highlights included getting to hold a tiger’s paw as it had dentistry work – the tiger was asleep, of course. And hanging out with Gentoo Penguins that were trying to peck at my shoes. I had dinner with Jane Goodall, who has always been a real hero of mine as a trailblazer for women in science.”

On her return to Sydney, Liz worked for Sydney Aquarium and Taronga Zoo before taking her conservation skills into National Parks.

Helping students find their passions

Liz was drawn to working at UNSW, she says, because she didn't get the opportunity to study what she wanted to when she was younger.

“Every day, I get degree envy seeing what our students study. And to me, marketing is an opportunity for doing good through what you promote.”

The key influence in Liz’s life – and career – was her sister, Rachel. Eleven years older, Rachel followed her passion, swapping corporate life for naturopathy. Sadly, in 2024 Rachel passed away from Stage IV melanoma.

“I still want to make her proud in everything I do, and it's really reinforced for me that you should always be true to who you are,” Liz says.

What might surprise your colleagues about you?

1. My favourite song is ‘A Praise Chorus’ by Jimmy Eat World.

2. I hiked to the summit of Nag Tibba on the Indian side of the Himalayas to raise money with WWF for tiger conservation.

What's the best advice you ever received?

It’s a quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off that has always stuck with me: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 

What is one thing that makes you happy?

Going on a walk on a crisp autumnal morning and feeling the cold air or my cheeks while I am rugged up as I do it.

What day in your life would you like to relive?

Any of the days I got to spend one-on-one with my sister.

Know someone with a good story? Email us at: insideunsw@unsw.edu.au