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Students ready to design their future

Amy Stevenson

29 July 2019: Two students have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to learn from Stanford University Design School, after they were chosen as the University of Canberra’s candidates for the University Innovation Fellows Program (UIF Program).

2019 candidates Belinda Harris, who’s studying a double bachelor’s degree in Arts in Architecture/Bachelor of Interior Architecture, and Qiaochu Yang, a first-year student Bachelor of Arts in Architecture student, were selected after a long application process which started back in November 2018.

Each year, the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Arts and Design can nominate up to four students for the program. Jess Karchinsky from the Faculty said those in the mix worked intensively on the UIF application, which includes getting their application endorsed by the Vice-Chancellor.

“The students have to implement their ideas, capture the learning outcomes and present this to UIF, and this involves demonstrating their desire to create significant change on campus, BIG change, “Ms Karchinsky said.

“Our challenge is to get students to think outside the box, outside their course, and outside their discipline, think of something University-wide that’s a challenge, or an idea, and show how they can address that in a significant way.”

Following Ms Harris and Mr Yang’s successful applications, they were accepted into the UIF six-week online Innovations and Entrepreneurship program, which will commence in October, along with countless international university students. Students from only one other Australian university were accepted.

“I’m expecting the program to push me out of my comfort zone, and I am excited by the challenge of improving my design thinking skills to develop a conceptual framework for pursuing innovation and positive change at UC,” Ms Harris said.

“For my application I fleshed out my idea and wrote a business plan like those used for start-ups and I filmed a three-minute pitch for consideration. I also put together a stall for market day, designed an interactive ideas board and encouraged students to respond to questions.

“I could see my question really made people think and begin to question what tools and techniques they use, and it was beautiful watching little light bulbs go off in students’ minds and to exchange ideas and offer support. I hope the change I sparked continues to grow and develop.”

Meanwhile, third year student Amannda Hout, who was the University’s inaugural UIF participant, has played a huge role as a mentor, in helping  this year’s students develop their ideas.

“My advice has been to view the program as a marathon and not a sprint,” Ms Hout said.

“The higher education system is a continual and gradual process, one that will not end when you leave and graduate but will continue and succeed if you leave behind a legacy and a grounds movement of action.

“Both Belinda and Qiaochu are phenomenal and they are so fortunate to have each other during the UIF journey, it wasn’t something I was fortunate enough to have, so every step of the way I remind them to lean on each other for support and widening perspectives. Take in every morsel of knowledge and talk to as many of the 1,838 fellows over 258 global intuitions that UIF encompasses.

“The world is your oyster and UIF gifts you with the tools and the belief that the complex problems of the world are just a process in the making of being solved,” she added.

The next step for this year’s students is to be invited to a four-day workshop in the Silicon Valley in March 2020, where they’ll learn, be inspired andchallenged to continue the path of innovation and change.

Following this workshop, they will bring these big ideas back to the University campus and have one year to showcase how they have grown and what they can do when they put their minds to it.