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Wednesday 21 December 2022 1:02pm

Student leaders 22 image

2023 student leaders (top row, from left) Grace Blisset, Harsimran Hundal, Rata McMullan, Tim Scott; (middle row, from left) Dian De Meyer (Canon NZ), Amal Abdullahi (Programme Coordinator, University of Otago Student Leadership Award), Shaheer Salman, Patrice Le Sueur, Bryony Harrison, Gabby Arnott, Erika Wong, Grace Baird, Tane Whitehead, Tony Phibbs (Canon NZ); (bottom row, from left) Kate Bonné, Tara Shepherd, Ashlee Berryman, Bianca Crichton, Zoe Song, Kaya Tanoa-Kaivananga, Sara Hashemi, Rebekah Amitrano, Sze-En Watts (Manager, Social Impact Studio)

Otago has churned out another cohort of movers and shakers.

Forty-one students graduated with their University of Otago Student Leadership Award (UOSLA) certificate this year making this the largest group to complete this course.

This extra-curricular award allows students to grow their potential in leadership for social change through voluntary work and teaches skills that will contribute to their professional and personal development.

Enrolled students are required to complete 170 hours of leadership and service work in a field of their choosing. They also attend communication workshops and engage in reflection journaling throughout.

UOSLA Programme Co-ordinator Amal Abdullahi says that the award redefines leadership.

“Students intimately interrogate their values and how they choose to show up for them. They learn to see leadership as a process that happens alongside community.

“That level of mahi includes talking about diversity, inclusion and acknowledging the systemic barriers that colour ones' lived experiences.”

The 289 students currently enrolled in the course are guided by the 161 mentors involved in the programme, who volunteer their time on top of their primary roles at the University.

“Our mentors are a diverse community who hold various roles across the University from head of departments, professors, management and advisors,” Ms Abdullahi says.

he award has grown exponentially since its pilot in 2014. There were 15 students that graduated from the first cohort and since then, the number of annual graduates has continued to grow despite the pandemic.

2021 saw significant growth for the programme, with its annual intake of students doubling that of the previous year.

Discussions around the UOSLA started in 2009 when a working group comprising staff across various student services was established to discuss opportunities for supporting students and nurturing their leadership potential.

The working group has now become an advisory group of staff who provide strategic feedback and act as champions for the programme in their student communities.

Some 470 students have completed this course and have collectively participated in 23,600 hours of service.

The course, run by Otago's Social Impact Studio, received a three-year Canon sponsorship agreement in 2020 valued at $25,000 per year.

Representatives from Canon New Zealand highlighted that the UOSLA shared a key value with their organisation, kyosei, a Japanese value that describes living and working together for the common good.

Former Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne has endorsed this course from its conception, often appearing at graduation ceremonies to congratulate the students.

This year's certificates were awarded by Director of Student Services Claire Gallop. Also in attendance were honorary guests from Canon New Zealand National Sales Manager Tony Phibbs and Enterprise and Government Account Manager Dian De Meyer.

Staff who would like to learn more about becoming a mentor for the programme are invited to email for more information.

Kōrero by Keilah Fox

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