Avondale students at the 10th University Scholars Leadership Symposium

Agents of change

Friday, September 13, 2019
Avondale students inspired by international leadership symposium

Two Avondale students have self-funded an own-time trip to join 1000 others from across the world for a leadership symposium in Kuala Lumpur.

Margaret Graham and Craig Louwen used the last few days of their semester break to represent the college of higher education at the 10th University Scholars Leadership Symposium, organised by Humanitarian Affairs Asia, August 1-7.

Despite drawing from the entire world, only students demonstrating leadership potential and a desire to improve society were invited to apply as delegates. The symposium provides these leaders with an understanding of key sustainable development challenges and motivates them to realise their potential as agents of change through talks by international trainers and humanitarian leaders. Presenters ranged from the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the founder of community-building charity Sunrise Cambodia, and Hillary Yip, the 13-year-old founder and chief executive officer of language-learning software company MinorMynas.

“I was overwhelmed by the number of high-profile figures there,” says Graham, an arts and primary teaching student. She and Louwen, an accounting and human resource management major, were confident the experience would be a fruitful one, even if, as first-time attendees, they did not know what to expect. The experience allowed them to grow in skill and attitude. Both felt inspired by what they heard from those around them, like-minded people with the similar aspirations and passions.

Yet even though they knew the event would be a good opportunity for networking, some of the most memorable moments came outside of the Setia City Convention Centre. Louwen described an event that occurred during the symposium’s service learning day. His group was taken to meet refugee children at an indoor fun park. In the middle of the day, one of the leaders assigned him to care for three girls forced to leave their country for Malaysia. “I was able to get to know these girls, playing basketball and various games to allow them moments to just be kids. Although it was only a short few hours, it was a time of uninterrupted joy, for them and me.”

The symposium encouraged Louwen to “be bolder in making a change” for the good of society. “Now, it’s time for me to put it into practice.”

Eilish Ryan attended the University Scholars Leadership Symposium as a staff representative in her role as Student Services Officer. She found Graham and Louwen’s commitment encouraging. “Margaret and Craig displayed determination in their fundraising efforts in the lead up to the symposium,” she says. “Then at the event, they were placed in situations in which they exhibited admirable traits including professionalism, compassion and a heart for service. I was delighted to have such exceptional students represent us.”

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Christian McClelland

Christian McClelland is studying secondary education with a major in English at Avondale College of Higher Education.

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