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Ambassadors of Change Awards highlight the UC students driving equity in higher ed

Kelly White

06 December 2022: The University of Canberra is a global leader in reducing inequalities – meet the students who make this achievement possible.

In 2022, the University was ranked number one in the world for reducing inequalities in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings – in no small part thanks to the passionate staff and students working and volunteering in the equity space.

As the year draws to a close, the University’s Equity and Participation team held their official awards night – the Ambassadors of Change Awards – to coincide with World Access to Higher Education Day.

Nine Ambassadors of Change were recognised for their work in a variety of areas, from supporting new students in their studies, to empowering First Nations students to access higher education, to delivering outreach programs in working in regional areas.

Congratulations to all the students and staff recognised on the night.

Jane Phuong – for her work in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law and commitment to building a community for Higher Degree by Research students, and Robin Ladwig – for their work in improving access and inclusion for transgender and gender diverse students. Pictured above.

Shavaun Andreou – for being an outstanding role model and advocate for First Nations students’ access to education.

Sarah Dove – for her outstanding work as a tutor with the Refugee Transition Program.

Chrystale Langsford – for her outstanding work and advocacy throughout the autism, disability and carer communities.

Lily O’Donnell – for her outstanding commitment to principles of equity through her roles as Aspirations Agent (see below for explanation), student mentor and tutor.

Bianca Parth – for being an outstanding role model and advocate for First Nations students’ access to education.

Claire Bousfield – for her outstanding work promoting equity and social justice in the Canberra law community.

University of Canberra Law student Claire Bousfield was nominated for her work to connect regional first year students with the supports they need to thrive at university.

As a young person relocating for study from a regional town, Claire initially struggled to find her feet. While she eventually found a great friend group, she wanted to help others who might be feeling isolated. Claire went on to host a breakfast for regional students and now, she’s working on a range of other equitable initiatives.

“When I arrived at UC, as social as I am, I struggled to make friends. I’m starting to implement initiatives, within the Law School in particular, that allow students to meet like-minded people and get to know each other,” Ms Bousfield said.

“University was always on the cards for me and from the time I was very young, I always wanted to go to the University of Canberra.

“I'm lucky that my mum is an academic. She was the first in her family to access higher education, and now she's really encouraging her children to go too.

“I think it's hard starting at university alone, so it's important to build those foundations that allow people to begin to spread their wings.”

Now in her fifth year, Ms Bousfield is looking forward to the next step in her journey, but hopes that someday a return to the University is on the cards.

“I'm now working as a paralegal in a family law firm, which I'm loving. They do family law a little bit differently – they're quite co-operative and very amicable. So, I’d love to stay there while I learn a little bit more about practising,” Ms Bousfield said.

“I would like to continue working in the family law space, with a possible academic career towards the end.”

Vishal Mittal – for his outstanding work as a Student Mentor and contribution to the UC Thrive program and UC community.

Vishal Mittal has just completed his final year of a Master of Data Science, and was recognised as an Ambassador of Change for his volunteer work with the UC Mentor Program through UC Thrive.

When Mr Mittal began his studies, he signed up to have a mentor. After finding his feet and appreciating the support provided, he too signed up to be a mentor.

“It was quite helpful for me to have a mentor – I learnt a few tips and tricks, and more about the course. So, after that, I knew that I too wanted to be a mentor,” Mr Mittal said.

In addition to the benefits that the mentee received, Mr Mittal found that his time as a mentor also helped him grow and develop his own skills, as well as giving back to others.

“Before I started this, I was very much an introvert. I got to learn many things, how to interact with people, how to talk with others, how to communicate. So it’s actually helped me a lot too,” he said.

Widening Participation Program Coordinator Tess Canty couldn’t be more thankful for her team and what they’ve been able to achieve in 2022.

“Through school engagements alone, by the end of December we will have delivered almost 2,350 instances of contact to primary and secondary students over the year,” Ms Canty says.

“By the end of Term 4 this year, our team will have conducted 28 school visits (with eight of these being full-day sessions) and have hosted 23 groups on campus [including two Indigenous-specific camps].”

In one key success this year, the UC Aspire team expanded their school holiday program to be delivered in Goulburn.

Aspirations Agents are current University of Canberra students from diverse backgrounds. The University has agents completing qualifications in engineering, dietetics, psychology, pharmacology, ecology, sports science and education.

Each school holidays, the team visits Cooma to provide educational services for the children of parents who are studying at university. In the July school holidays this year, the team also delivered the program in Goulburn.

105 parents who study at university were provided with educational services throughout the holidays, to ensure mums and dads still had the time they needed to study – 100 per cent of parents surveyed in April and July agreed that the program "has enabled me to spend more time studying".