Students from the UNSW Faculty of Engineering recently travelled to Bangkok, joining peers from around the world with a shared interest in pursuing a more peaceful, inclusive and sustainable world.

Held at the United Nations Conference Centre from 1-4 August 2023, the 11th University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS) was facilitated by Humanitarian Affairs Asia. It was an opportunity for hundreds of university students to learn, gain inspiration, build connections and participate in local humanitarian projects.

The UNSW contingent included the six UNSW Engineering students—Sarina Ulrich, Dominique Djaidiguna, Stephanie (Priyanka) Kumar, Finn Crawford, Janine Udan and Thomas Larcombe—and A/Prof Lauren Kark from the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering. Representing 46 countries, almost 500 students attended, learning from experts and each other about how to lead impactful sustainable development and humanitarian projects.

Janine Udan says that participating in the University Scholar Leadership Symposium was an incredible experience. 

“During the symposium, we were presented with remarkable people who lent their voices to share their stories of navigating inequalities and humanitarian crises within their communities,” said Janine.

“Replete with humility and inspiration, speakers such as Saengduean Lek Chailert, the luminary behind the Save Elephant Foundation, and distinguished women from the UN Women panel deeply resonated with me as I continue to strongly advocate for animal rights and gender equality.”

In addition to experiencing motivational presentations from humanitarian speakers, the attendees participated in a ‘Kindness Day’. Students could choose to volunteer in a local community activity, from painting a school to cleaning up a waterway to planting trees to mitigate the climate crisis.

Thematic workshops were also facilitated on the final day of the event, helping to provide guidance for students on next steps following the conference. They covered advice on the key steps for initiating a sustainable project, information for those interested in being a ‘changemaker’ for the next USLS, and the sharing of diverse ideas on opportunities attendees may choose to pursue after the symposium.

Jack May says he highly recommends the USLS to other UNSW students.

"The USLS provided a unique experience to develop and understand emerging global leadership style; whilst networking with a range of people globally. A highlight for me was the ability to see demonstrable effects of volunteering with the river cleanup activities,” said Jack.

“I would highly recommend the experience to anyone interested in developing their leadership skills or understanding global issues of note.”