Why did you choose to take part in the Leadership Program?
I haven’t been involved in many of the programs and activities that are offered at UNSW and uni life for me has mainly been about my studies. I used to step up into leadership roles and activities in high school but realised I haven’t so much since being at university. I decided it would be good to make the most of what is here, and build back a bit of that confidence through challenging myself and getting out there!
Has the program helped with this?
Yes the program was a really valuable experience for me. In the workshops I learnt about leadership theories and styles and it was reinforced that leadership isn’t about being the most outgoing and confident person in the pack, and that we all have what it takes, me included. They also reinforced for me that it’s the people skills and emotional intelligence that really matters in leadership. As a social work student these are areas that really interest me and I realised they are my strengths as well which is encouraging.
I got to explore and rediscover my core leadership values and skills and get confident in them again, not just through the workshops but also through implementing it all in my Community Engagement, where I pushed myself to step up and take on some new responsibilities. The practical application is really important.
What else did you take away from the workshops specifically?
I really enjoyed the MBTI workshop as it helped me learn about myself and appreciate the difference in others and the importance of working within those differences. The Conflict Resolution workshop built on this and we looked more at how to flex your style to get on better with others. It was really eye opening and useful for me and is an important aspect of leadership. Generally the workshops are really good at helping you reflect in yourself and your values, skills and approach to life. I know we all groan when it comes to self-reflection, but something I have learnt in my social work study is how crucial it is to your own development and being able to respond well to others. I think this program is really invaluable for people doing courses that don’t get to do a lot of self-reflection and learn about themselves that way as part of their studies.
How did you stay motivated through the program?
I found the ‘catch up week’ really helpful and did nearly all of my workshops during those weeks. It meant that I didn’t feel I was compromising my academic program by trying to fit them in during semester, and I could really get the most out of the learning in the holidays without studies on my mind. That’s just what worked for me.
Could you describe the Community Engagement component of the program?
I volunteered over a whole weekend as part of a 60km walking event aimed at raising money for the Chris Obrien Lighthouse. It was really fun; we were part of a team running a pit stop and check point with food and drinks for the walkers. I was given the Captain Crew role which meant taking care of other volunteers, calling into event control and reporting back on the numbers of walkers and stock levels to keep them maintained.
I was really happy that the organisation gave me a more senior volunteer role throughout the event. I talked about the Leadership Program with my supervisor right from the beginning and my wish to take on more leadership responsibilities if possible. They were really helpful and accommodating, and I think me framing it in this way demonstrated my initiative, maturity and confidence to them.
Do you have any tips or advice for students currently doing the program?
Thinking back I perhaps could have made more of the community engagement component and sought out an ongoing community project or group where I could get really involved and make more of a difference. So my advice would be to really think about that aspect of the program and hunt around to find something that is going to really stretch you. Also talk with your supervisor about the program and the fact that you are looking to step up into a leadership role. This might make all the difference to your experience!