Queensland University of Technology (QUT) hosted the biennial Asian Pacific Student Services Association (APSSA) Conference. Highly diverse constituents of varied cultures, ethnicities, and personal experiences made up the 400 delegates. This diversity was set amidst themes of ‘supporting’, ’engaging,’ and ‘building graduate capabilities’ for students involved in international tertiary education. More than this, APSSA highlighted the many challenges future graduates face: greater graduate competition impacting employability, environmental sustainability, poverty, increased disparity between rich and poor, globalisation among others. While previous conferences stimulate questions to the aforementioned issues, APSSA’s approach was different. Rather, APSSA invited and actively encouraged solutions.
While preconceived ideas of Brisbane were not consistent with reality due to poor weather, Queensland certainly lived up to the ‘Smart State’ tagline. The conference itself was divided into two, with seminars and workshops available to academic and industry professionals, as well as students. Students engaged in various activities that sought to discover each individual’s story, experiences, and passion. After all we all have a story to tell, which has been shaped by our experiences, sculpturing our passion and outlook in life for tomorrow.
Day one of the formal proceedings saw all delegates learn from the inherit wisdom of Key Note Speaker Professor Don Markwell. Professor Markwell grew up in Quilpie, outback Queensland to then transform circumstance to become the eighth Warden of Rhodes House, Oxford University. Later becoming the first Rhodes Scholar himself, Professor Markwell proves that humble beginnings are no sign of possibilities of one’s success once engaged through education. His story was certainly one I could relate to; as I am sure many other students could as well. Other sessions included a ‘World Café,’ where discussions were chaired by one person in a group of four. Discussions were raw, current issues that many students experience regardless of nation. However, to change the topic, all people beside the scribe must also change. The result was an increased knowledge and understanding of discrepancies in education internationally.
Each day represented a different theme, with the second day themed around engaging. With talk about ‘changing the world’ and having the ‘power’ to do so, students took it upon themselves to take control of the conference. Students posed to question: ‘How do you develop a supportive team to counteract issues effecting young people?’ APSSA once again delivered, explaining how we can best use our talent to put towards the greater good. Conference facilitator Alissa Phillips drew on her own experience from S.P.A.C.E – an organisation she founded encouraging inclusive communities, particularly for people with disabilities. Likewise with guest key-note speaker, Aleem Ali who spoke on methods for engagement in the not-for-profit sector that endorse social change. Day two concluded with the most remarkable events – I call on Open Space. Students chaired 30 minute discussions on issues affecting the global community. Awareness was not desired, rather solutions. With limited resources, students provided workable solutions to global sustainability, indigenous education, the disparity between rich and poor, among many others. Empowerment had now reached maximum. It was time to party, especially given such great venue at the Strand on Quay, Eagle Street Pier. Formalities were put to the side, as Brisbane showcased fine food, brilliant wine, and genuine hospitality.
With few still feeling the effects of the night before, day three was the final day of the APSSA conference. The concluding theme being ‘building graduate capabilities,’ was consistent with final day proceedings. All 400 delegates would today be graduating from a conference of innovation, education, and social justice. After three days, we became more capable world citizens, with well-constructed social networks, and definitely eyes widened to many more issues affecting the global community. APSSA was an amazing experience. Personally, it defined today’s generation. While Generation Y is often regarded as a social failure among many other negative remarks, APSSA was the antithesis of such ideas. Young people are more educated and more committed to achieving positive change, than any of our predecessors. We are empowered by each other, innovation, and the infinite desire to learn. APSSA proved this and so much more.
Check it out at http://www.apssa2010.qut.edu.au/