02/02/2016 - 13:49

Connecting NFPs, UWA students

02/02/2016 - 13:49

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Students across all disciplines at the University of Western Australia this year will be offered courses and internships on issues such as homelessness, mental health and chronic disadvantage.

EDUCATOR: Michelle Scott will give UWA students an opportunity to contribute directly to tackling pressing social issues. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Students across all disciplines at the University of Western Australia this year will be offered courses and internships on issues such as homelessness, mental health and chronic disadvantage.

The initiative was made possible by a $5 million donation from the McCusker Foundation.

McCusker Centre for Citizenship’s inaugural director, and former WA Commissioner for Children and Young People, Michelle Scott, told Business News the organisation had forged bonds with about 70 not-for-profit groups during the past few months.

Leaders from these NFPs will be called on to give lectures and formally structured 50-hour minimum internships, where the students will learn about social challenges and undertake projects aimed at making meaningful social contributions.

Ms Scott said tailored internships were being developed for participants in Western Australia, elsewhere in Australia and nationally, including in New York with the Global Poverty Project.

Following specific requests from NFPs, the internship programs will include projects such as developing digital communication approaches for clients, undertaking research, and business development projects.

“They’re designed to be mutually beneficial,” Ms Scott said.

“They provide opportunities for positive learning experiences for students and constructive contributions to the work of not-for-profit organisations.

The centre will begin offering internships and courses this year, with plans for leadership and mentoring programs to follow.

“It really is about active citizenship,” Ms Scott said.

“If we’re going to meet some of these challenges in our community, all of us need to be making a contribution in some sort of way … we all have a responsibility to step forward.”

She said interest in the programs being offered stemmed from many students’ clearly stated interest in the sector, with some already engaged in the NFP space.

“There is an enormous appetite for this,” Ms Scott said.

“Many students have developed their own social enterprise or start up not-for-profit organisation around a range of issues.

“We have students volunteering for uni camps for kids, for example, students involved in reading programs in schools.

“We really want to extend the range of those opportunities in the not-for-profit sector to students and also to increase the understanding among students about some of these challenges which are very real in our community.”

Ms Scott said the centre aimed to foster a life-long contribution and complement academic pursuits.

“They’re learning with a purpose and provide a benefit that extends beyond the personal advantages a degree can bring,” she said.

She hoped this would lead to better links between the corporate and NFP sectors.

“There’s a great opportunity in the community sector, the not for profit and amongst students to work together collaboratively,” Ms Scott said.

“I’m very excited to be able to forge that partnership and bridge that gap.”

The centre, which was described as the first of its kind in Australia when it was launched last year by UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson, also receives funds from the university, and has long-term plans to tap corporations and philanthropists for further financial support.

 

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