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Student Leadership Award programme boosted by Canon Sponsorship

Wednesday 19 August 2020 4:08pm


UOSLA image 2020
Photo from left to right: Amal Abdullahi (UOSLA coordinator), Sze-En Watts (Manager of the Social Impact Studio), Keegan Casey (Social Impact Lead and participant of the UOSLA). Credit: Arthur Hon

The University of Otago’s Student Leadership Award programme will be able to increase its profile in the student community and enhance the experiences it offers due to a new sponsorship agreement with Canon.

Working with the Social Impact Studio which facilitates the two-year award programme, Canon will provide sponsorship of $25,000 to help promote the programme, and enhance the quality and variety of experiences offered. Canon will also continue to provide sponsorship of $25,000 for the Hands On Otago programme for high school students.

Social Impact Studio Manager Sze-En Watts says the funding is “quite unexpected but a really great surprise for us. Then when we learned more about why Canon was interested in sponsoring us it made us even more excited – it gives us a little more hope to know that a huge international company like Canon can have such a strong community-focussed ethos”.

She says the Social Impact Studio and the award programme connect with students who want to do something positive for their communities, and it’s encouraging for “the next generation of CEOs and citizens” to know opportunities exist to work with organisations that have strong social values.

National Sales Manager Canon Business Solutions Tony Phibbs says “here at Canon we are guided by our international philosophy of Kyosei – Living and working together for the common good, with a particular focus on making a difference in people’s lives. To that end partnerships have never been more relevant, so we take great pride in partnering with organisations that highlight shared beliefs with ours.

“The initiatives that we support at the University of Otago are a shining example of the Kyosei philosophy and a testament to the strength of our partnership,” says Mr Phibbs. “These initiatives include the popular Hands on Otago programme that offers high school students the opportunity to experience Otago student life over the summer holidays, and the Social Impact Studio, via the University of Otago Student Leadership Award scheme. Canon wishes to acknowledge the incredible commitment by the many volunteers and leaders within the University who deliver such amazing experiences for those students participating in these impactful initiatives and looks forward to seeing these continue for many years.”

Sze-En says Kyosei philosophy aligns well with the ethos of the Social Impact Studio, which believes ‘in the power of collective good’. She says the leadership programme provides students with the chance to explore leadership in the context of social good, rather than self-gain.

The social change model of leadership followed by the programme was developed for individuals who want to lead in a more socially responsible way and work effectively with others to create social change. Its seven key values – Seven Cs for Change – include Consciousness of Self, Congruence, Commitment, Collaboration, Common Purpose, Controversy with Civility and Citizenship.

Over the course of at least two years, students on the programme commit to 170 hours of leadership and service in the wider community and University; prepare individual leadership development plans; attend seminars and workshops, are paired with a mentor; and complete reflection essays.

The programme is in its seventh year, and usually has an annual intake of around 50 students, representing every stage of the leadership journey.

“One thing I love about the award is that first years and postgraduate students can develop their leadership practices alongside each other, It doesn’t matter what year of study you are in.”

- Social Impact Studio Manager Sze-En Watts

“One thing I love about the award is that first years and postgraduate students can develop their leadership practices alongside each other,” says Sze-En. “It doesn’t matter what year of study you are in. It’s about your willingness to learn and share leadership lessons with each other, even if it means you have to dissect your own mistakes and be open about your fears.”

The new funding from Canon has allowed the Social Impact Studio to put more resources into enhancing the programme experience and increasing the student intake next year. One of the initiatives planned for this year was On Purpose, a social impact speaker night to challenge students’ perceptions of how leadership presents itself in our community. Unfortunately this has had to be postponed at this stage due to the COVID-19 situation. Guest speakers lined up for the event had included the social impact legends from Bay Road peanut butter, Catalyst Kitchen, the Shit You Should Care About online news community, and Guled Mire, a former refugee high school dropout who was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Cornell University in the United States.

Canon will also resource an annual guest lecture series and an internship in co-ordination with Otago Business School.