UTS gains international acclaim for community engagement initiatives

2 June 2015

UTS Shopfront and the university’s SOUL Award program have taken out second place in the prestigious MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship, recognising exceptional student community engagement initiatives and collaborative partnerships from around the world.

The MacJannet Prize is awarded by the Talloires Network, an association of more than 300 universities across the globe, who are committed to strengthening community engagement and social responsiveness in higher education.

Since its establishment in 1996, Shopfront has connected more than 3,500 students and 50 academic staff with 720 community organisations. Together, they have delivered 850 capacity-building projects within community organisations, with students using their ‘work ready’ skills to advance social justice, as part of their degree.

Students making a difference

Shopfront’s model of facilitating both curricular and extra-curricular community engagement is unique in Australia, with curricular programs supplemented by the highly successful SOUL Award that has seen more than 2,300 students in extra-curricular volunteering and leadership training since its launch in 2013.

The students involved in the programs experience unique practice-based learning, allowing them to gain important skills in leadership, team work, critical thinking, and problem solving.

“It’s fantastic that the MacJannet Prize recognises the excellent and engaged work that our students undertake through coursework and volunteering in collaboration with our community partners. The Prize itself reinforces the core role of universities being about real and lasting social impact, developing adaptive leaders and extending knowledge,” says Shopfront’s Program Manager, Pauline O’Loughlin.

Alumni sharing their knowledge

And it’s not just current students who are engaging with the program: an increasing number of UTS alumni are becoming mentors as well. After volunteering in 2012 as a Shopfront mentor with community organisation Mahboba’s Promise, that assists female refugees in Australia and widows and children within Afghanistan, Derek Burrows (Master of Business Administration, 2008) gained so much from the experience that he was compelled to bring others in too.

He reached out to fellow staff within the Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney offices of Advisian, the global management consultancy of which he is an associate. As a result, six of his colleagues have now mentored Shopfront projects as part of the company’s corporate responsibility program, supervising students in organisations making an impact in a diverse range of fields.

“Shopfront is a great fit for our skills,” says Burrows. “We are working on issues such as organisational redesign and governance, and these are the same kind of issues that large corporates also struggle with. It is great for our mentors because they get exposure to sections of the community that they might never meet in a million years.”

How to get involved

UTS alumni are invited to share their expertise as coaches, with the opportunity to take part in a range of projects in a unique environment where students, academics and community groups work together to make a real difference.

To find out how you can get involved in the alumni mentorship program, email shopfront@uts.edu.au, or you can register your interest by visiting the Alumni page on the Shopfront website or follow the latest updates on the Shopfront Facebook page.

>> Read more about the work that Shopfront does in the Winter 2015 edition of Tower Magazine!