Stephanie Lin has been both a recipient and donor of the Student Appeal, which helps students struggling financially.
Magic happens. For University of Melbourne commerce alumna Stephanie Lin, that’s not a New Age slogan but the essence – and the two-way reward – of the University’s Student Appeal.
Ms Lin, now working as a consultant at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu – fittingly, in the area of human capital – has been a recipient, a raiser of funds and awareness, a committee member and a donor for the Student Appeal, the magic of which she sums up in another perfectly economical phrase: students for students.
Most students face a constant challenge balancing study with part-time work to keep pace with rent and living expenses. “Everyone jokes about things like Cheap Tuesdays: "let’s go get a cheap pizza’,” says Ms Lin. “It’s ‘uni student lifestyle’, and no one takes it seriously.”
But for some students the balance becomes difficult and tips into financial stress, which seriously impacts a student’s wellbeing, studies and ability to live a normal life.
We heard stories of students who basically lived couch to couch – technically they are homeless.
Becoming involved in the Student Appeal as a volunteer in 2010 opened Ms Lin’s eyes to this reality. “We heard stories of students who basically lived couch to couch – technically they are homeless,” she says.
In extreme cases, such financial hardship can lead to students abandoning studies altogether. The Student Appeal – directly supporting those in need – can be a lifeline.
Ms Lin, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is the first in her family to go to university. Raised in Adelaide, she shifted to Melbourne to study for a Bachelor of Commerce in accounting and finance in 2009. For the first year she lived at Trinity College and says she initially “existed in my own little bubble” in the college community.
But moving out the following year, she went looking for an extra-curricular activity with meaning and found the Student Appeal. “Which, six years later, I’m still passionate about.”
Soon she found herself on the committee, organising the volunteers who go out and engage with fellow students, as well as awareness and fund raising events such as sleep-outs on the South Lawn, sumo wrestling afternoons and jumping castles. “Essentially it was about encouraging students to donate and beginning a conversation about the need,” she says.
Ms Lin was awarded a Commerce Alumni Leadership Scholarship in her final year, recognising her service to the University community, and also became chair of the Young Alumni Council for the Faculty of Business and Economics.
She has remained a donor, making a monthly contribution to the First In The Family scholarships.
I'm not donating massive amounts, but it's the small things that count.
“I think in Australia our sense of philanthropy for higher education is that it’s not the norm as it is overseas. It’s a sense of pride, I think. You leave the University but you give back and you make a contribution.
I suppose that's what it is – it's about leaving a legacy behind. At the end of the day you hope to sprinkle a bit of magic.