During 2015, several students including myself, started to wonder about how we could help improve the student leadership experience at CSU. This led to the establishment of a Student Voice think-tank with key people at CSU including presidents of the SRCs (Student Representative Councils), the Presiding Officer of Academic Senate, Student Liaison Officers, the University Secretary, and the Dean of Students.
During this meeting it became clear that student involvement in university governance provides many benefits to the success of the university, the university community, and the professional development of the individual students involved. We felt that this message of ‘everybody wins’, needed to be communicated more effectively to students so that we could increase the participation of students in leadership positions.
Building a student leadership culture
Through these discussions, the idea of a Student Leadership Conference was born. It aimed to provide the opportunity for current student leaders in elected positions to meet with others from different campuses to build a sense of ‘whole of university student leadership culture’. The conference also aimed to provide these leaders with more skills to work more effectively in their positions and the opportunity for the students to meet with and question some of the senior staff leaders of CSU.
The Inaugural Student Leadership Conference was held at Wagga Wagga campus and has got to be one of the highlights of my year. It was an extremely successful first go at a whole of university student leadership conference. The staff involved provided extremely positive feedback and the only criticism from students who attended was that it did not go for long enough.
Starting the conversation
The conference was a day and a half of networking, developing leadership skills and brainstorming about the future of CSU student leadership. All students in elected positions across the university were invited and over 30 dedicated student leaders attended. Although it was held at Wagga campus, many students made the trek from Port Macquarie, Dubbo, Orange, Albury and Bathurst. There were even distance students at the event. The conference was funded by SSAF (Student Services and Amenities Fee) and travel, accommodation and meals were all covered for the students who attended.
A big brainstorming session in the last session of the conference explored how the student leadership conference could be improved, how the Office for Students could better support students in their leadership roles and what students would do if they were the Vice-Chancellor of CSU. Many ideas of how to improve the student leadership experience at CSU were developed including ways of more effectively communicating with students about the leadership opportunities. All of the students I spoke to had ideas from the conference that they were planning to take back to their own boards and committees
Where to from now?
For me, the most exciting thing is that this conference was just part of a wider push for greater Student Voice at CSU. The Office for Students is keen to see this conference occur on an annual basis and planning for the 2016 Student Leadership Conference has already begun. I would like to thank all the people who were involved in this conference and to all of the CSU community – watch this space because the Student Voice at CSU is only going to get louder from here!