Empowered Residents Empower Residents

Each year the NAAUC (National Association of Australian University Colleges) national conference attracts delegates from across Australia with the aim to inspire and empower them to create positive change in their residential communities. Attendees are actively challenged and encouraged to learn, discuss and reflect on the key issues facing those living on campus in tertiary residences, including student wellbeing, diversity and media presence.

This year, Student Living sponsored 2 of our residents to attend the NAAUC conference based on a 500-word application that outlined why they wished to attend the conference and how they positively contribute to their on-campus community.

We spoke to Hamzah and Kate, the successful applicants, about their experience at NAAUC:

Hamzah at registration (image via NAAUC)

Tell us a little bit about NAAUC and why you think you were chosen to represent Student Living…

Hamzah: NAAUC is the peak representative body for tertiary students living on-campus in Australia. They comprise of aspiring and experienced student leaders on Campus which include the Associations and Residential Mentors of almost every University down under.

Kate: NAAUC’s executive is made up of people who live/have lived on-campus and at the annual conference, that executive gets together and provides delegates with information and strategies they can use to foster positive change within their own community. Each day we heard from guest speakers and expert panellists, attended seminars run by the NAAUC team and then capped it off with a fun social event.

H: As to why I was chosen, well, I love to learn and apply what I’ve learnt to help others out! I really thank Student Living for granting me the opportunity to learn on a scholarship! Hope to give back to the community as best as I can.

K: While I believe my previous leadership experience, involvement in campus life and desire to take on a leadership position next year all contributed to why I represented Student Living, I think it was my open-minded attitude, commitment to the NAAUC experience and understanding of the need for continuous improvement within our communities that got my application over the line.

2018 Conference Group (image via NAAUC)

What were some of the key ideas talked about at the conference?

H: “Sustained Positive Change” was the catchphrase of this year’s conference. NAAUC imparted this message through 4 days of intense academic programs. Each day started off with an amazing keynote guest speaker and ended off with a social program after dinner, as Kate mentioned.

Each day focused on one of four key points: Fostering Diversity, Representation of Residences, Student Wellbeing and Leadership. This allowed us to immerse ourselves in ideas shared by fellow students and imparted by seniors. It was quite the environment to bounce ideas off from each other. Plenty of practical takeaways too!

K: Some concepts discussed within these areas included evaluating your residence’s diversity, masculinity in residences, supporting disabilities, pastoral care, operating effectively as a team, O-Week and conflict resolution.

It was emphasised throughout the conference how important it is for university residences to offer more than just a place to live and friendships. They also need to offer experiences, opportunities and services that help shape the people within them in a positive and lasting way.

Kate (top left) attends a social event (image via NAAUC)

What was the best thing about going to NAAUC?

H: Meeting college leaders from around Australia in an organized and empowering environment! It’s pretty amazing to be part of this national gathering of aspiring and experienced student leaders from all over Australia! Being one of the few internationals in NAAUC was also a great opportunity to represent and contribute to the international communities living on campus.

K: The people! I met so many amazing people from residences all over Australia with a common desire for change and learning, but who brought different perspectives based on their own unique experiences. It was awesome to have such a diverse knowledge and opinion base for critical discussion of issues and make new friends in the process!

I also think the dedication of the NAAUC team to delivering a conference with interesting and informative seminars and fun events that catered to the diversity of the group was really evident, which helped create a very engaging and empowering environment for delegates.

What was one thing that you learned that blew your mind?

H: Paradigms of the colleges have changed drastically from previous years since the emergence of the Red Zone Report. It’s pretty fascinating seeing the change within colleges first hand. Nina Funnel’s opening speech for the conference was really intense and confronting. She definitely kicked off the conference on a very serious and reflective note on how colleges could better cater to the welfare and interests of residents. The standing ovation for her speech to me represented the start of immense positive change across Australian colleges.

K:  The extent to which actively and consciously managing diversity – at both a personal and organisational/cultural level – can affect the environment you’re in. Recognising the diversity within your residence is usually straightforward. The challenge lies in catering for this diversity by developing events and fostering a culture that accommodates a variety of people in a more collaborative way.

Strategic planning within college leadership groups, including the development of a mission statement to inform long-term goals and the short-term steps needed to achieve those goals, is particularly important to success.

How do you think you’ll apply what you learned to the Student Living community?

H: Sharing knowledge to fellow leaders so that they in turn can spread a positive community would be of priority. I am looking forward to sharing ideas and fostering spaces of discussion for this year’s student leadership mid year training.

K: It’s definitely easier said than done, but on an everyday small-scale level I’d like to be more active and less passive when I see something within our community I don’t agree with. Completing MATE bystander training at NAAUC makes me feel better prepared to do this.

At a more formal level, I’m keen to take on a leadership role at Barahineban next year, which is where I think what I learned at NAAUC could really be put to good use in event planning and/or pastoral care.

Hamzah (left) and Kate (right) at UON’s accommodation precinct

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

H: Could not thank Student Living enough for sponsoring my participation in such an enlightening and fun conference! Highly recommend any current or aspiring leaders to apply for the scholarship next year and be inspired by the Australian on-campus student leader community.

K: I would wholeheartedly encourage people to apply for the 2019 conference. I wasn’t completely sure what I was getting myself in for when I submitted my application for NAAUC, but I couldn’t be happier I did. You learn heaps, meet great people and see new places; there’s no way you won’t enjoy it!

Kate is a first year Barahineban resident studying a Bachelor of Business/Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Hamzah is a 3rd year North Tower resident studying a Bachelor of Medical Science/Doctor of Medicine.

Feature Image: Kate, Hamzah and Jonty, the former NSW State Representative and now President of NAAUC. Image via NAAUC.

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