Meet the students reaching out

22 August 2019

Oliver, Aarya and Remi-Rose

Photo: Oliver, Aarya and Remi-Rose

Hidden within Building Five’s sprawling maze of corridors, a team of student representatives clocks on at 5pm sharp. Their job? To call UTS graduates, both recent and long past.

“Students call our alumni, reconnect with them, and let them know about the events and initiatives we have on offer,” says Aarya Raghubanshi, currently training as Team Leader. “We also try to better understand how we can help them with their goals, such as returning for postgraduate study,” she adds.

They also talk to alumni about how they can make a difference to the lives of students in need. Currently, the Alumni Outreach program is aiming to raise much-need funds for three UTS initiatives: Diversity Access Scholarships, the Galuwa Experience and the Jumbunna Institute. But according to trainee Team Assistant Oliver Rich, having a genuine conversation is the ultimate goal.

“Yes, we are calling and letting them know about the initiatives and giving them the option to donate or participate. But we’re really just hoping to reconnect and have an open discussion,” says Oliver. “A big part of this outreach is simply just trying to let alumni know that our support isn’t just here for you during your time at UTS – but for your entire professional career and beyond.”

Building a community

Another popular way alumni choose to give back is through volunteering. “Even though some of them may not be able to help out in a monetary way, people are often really interested in helping our students out,” says Aarya. “They are really excited to come back here, and it’s really heartwarming to hear how connected they still feel to the UTS community.”

“It was amazing to see that lightbulb moment in their eyes. It made me realise what I’m actually helping with. Even now, whenever I talk about it I can’t keep the joy out of my face.” – Remi-Rose Evans

Thanks to its unique beginnings, being a member of the UTS alumni community has some interesting advantages. “Because UTS was initially formed from several different colleges, we get to speak with a diverse variety of alumni,” explains Remi-Rose. “And the best part is how giving they are as a whole. They always want to be involved and help out.”

Aarya believes they’re happy to be involved because UTS fosters a culture in which alumni genuinely want to come back. “We’re not just having students graduate with fantastic results, and sending them off into the world. It’s about building lifelong connections – and that’s quite amazing.”

Giving back

So what initiatives would the student callers support if given $1000 to donate? Aarya and Remi-Rose say they’d give to Galuwa, an initiative that provides Indigenous high school students from across Australia the opportunity to experience university first-hand.

Remi-Rose says she’s been inspired by the program ever since she had the opportunity to see it in action. “These high school students come to UTS, spend three or four days learning about particular courses, and leave thinking ‘I can turn my passion into a career,’” she says. “It was amazing to see that lightbulb moment in their eyes. It made me realise what I’m actually helping with. Even now, whenever I talk about it I can’t keep the joy out of my face.”

Oliver says he’d give to the Jumbunna Institute, if given the chance. “Jumbunna is my favourite because it’s all about maintaining the support when Indigenous students get here. It helps with the transition to university, as well as the costs, and gives them the resources to succeed. It’s a sustainable approach that provides more than just inspiration.” Remi-Rose nods in agreement adding, “It’s one thing to get to the lake, it’s another thing to swim.”

Making a difference

Although these students may not be able to donate just yet, their work is already making a big impact.

“It’s so exciting to hear the stories of students who are really able to unlock their potential thanks to scholarship support,” says Aarya. “Every single Outreach Program we do, we aim to collect a specific amount and I always think, ‘We’re helping students and this university education is going to change their lives.’”

One of the student success stories they’re championing this campaign is the story of Brooke Ottley, a Gunggari, Wuthathi and Torres Strait Islander woman who travelled from Darwin to follow her dream to study at UTS.

Oliver says it feels good to work for a meaningful cause. “We’re not calling and asking for funds for something irrelevant, or something we’ll never see in action. I have friends in my cohort who are on the Diversity Access Scholarship, or who are a part of the Jumbunna Institute – and it’s because of this support they’re at uni,” says Oliver. “It feels very personal. I see how it’s making a difference, and it feels good to help out a little bit.”

People like you play a key role in helping disadvantaged students get to university and thrive while they’re here. Learn more about our projects and causes, and the many different ways you can give to UTS.

Byline: Chloe Michele