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“Leadership in the public interest, based on critical thinking and evidence-based thought.”
That’s UNSW’s working definition of ‘thought leadership,’ and it’s something that’s instilled into every student across all faculties. Put simply, it means you’ll be mentored by renowned researchers and educators who are dedicated to shaping a generation of forward-thinking, environmentally conscious and socially engaged individuals. UNSW values your unique potential to shape a better world and provides the tools to ensure you can make it happen.
Associate Professor Leanne Piggott, who is the Academic Director of Work Integrated Learning (WIL), believes students join UNSW in a collective endeavour to make the world a better place. This is done by putting an emphasis on thinking in front of the curve to understand the current situation and determine where we can go next, with diversity of thought key to overall success. “This requires a range of skills and attributes like critical thinking and problem-solving,” she adds. “UNSW has a strong commitment to Work Integrated Learning (WIL), something which I think we are providing thought leadership on nationally, if not internationally.”
The aim of WIL is to narrow the gap between the theory and practice, with WIL opportunities enhancing students’ employability. Associate Professor Piggott believes these opportunities give business students a deep understanding of how important it is for companies to make a profit in a socially and environmentally responsible way. “We are indeed thought leaders in doing business for social good while providing students with the opportunity to learn how to do business by doing social good. We are challenging them to identify how, as successful business practitioners, they will impact positively on society and the environment.”
Dr Andrew Dansie, Senior Lecturer in Humanitarian Engineering, agrees that the hands-on experience gained by students at UNSW is vital to their potential role as future thought leaders. He believes the interdisciplinary opportunities across campus are providing the skills needed to help face the biggest global challenges ahead of us, with students growing up in a different world than their parents did with markedly different priorities that include doing good.
“Our students want to make the world a better place. So, it’s our place to give them the tools to go for it,” Dr Dansie says. “The population is set to grow to more than 11 billion, so being able to work as part of a multi-disciplinary group and communicate across professions is a key skill to have. We make sure students work in these varied environments, enabling us to give them an educational experience that includes interaction with real-world professionals and solving real-world, project-based problems.”
A major global challenge is sustainability, which is a key focus at UNSW. Associate Professor Alison Gwilt, who convenes the Art and Design textile program, challenges her students to be much more innovative to address future problems. “It has become really important to reflect on our existing linear practices to understand how sustainability and the circular economy can impact the way we do things. In textiles, I think it’s important that we are ‘making meaningful materials’,” she explains.
Professor Gwilt believes brands that don’t engage in sustainability are at risk of losing their consumer base, with textile consumers expecting an ethical and responsible ethos. “We encourage our designers to question their process: Why is this product necessary? Should I use the same materials my industry has always employed? Could I look at this differently? Rather than adopting conventional approaches to practice, we’re challenging students to ask, ‘How can I make a difference?”