Connecting scholarship recipients with their supporters

When a student receives a scholarship through the generosity of the University community, it acts as a powerful vote of confidence. Yet many scholarship recipients never put a face to the life-changing support they receive.

At the Celebrating Student Success event on 26 April, Access scholarship recipients had the opportunity to do just that. Around 80 guests, made up of donors and students, exchanged stories on the joy of giving and the transformative power of receiving support.

Guests arrived at University House on the Parkville campus and mingled over drinks and canap├ęs, while enjoying entertainment provided by Finnian Rees – a Bachelor of Music alum and previous Will Poskitt Piano Scholarship holder – who played piano throughout the evening.

Finnian ReesBachelor of Music alum Finnian Rees provided entertainment for the evening.

Professor Nicola Phillips, Provost at the University of Melbourne, then commenced the formalities of the evening by welcoming guests and delivering a compelling speech on the far-reaching impact of student support.

“The transformative impact of students’ university experience simply cannot be underestimated. As an academic, who has spent many hours at the front of lecture halls and tutorial rooms, my career has been built on witnessing and facilitating that transformation,” said Professor Phillips.

“The growth in confidence, in understanding, ability to question and to contribute to the world can be exponential with the right supports in place.”

Next up were the stars of the evening, the three scholarship recipients who participated in a panel discussion on the vast array of ways that student support has encouraged them – both practically and emotionally – in their studies and beyond.

Fostering camaraderie and confidence

Senior Director of Alumni and Donor Relations Brigette Sancho facilitated the panel discussion with scholarship recipients Fadi Abo, Linna Tea and Julia Doupe.

Second year Bachelor of Arts (Economics and Politics) student Fadi shared with attendees how valuable the support from the Melbourne Access Scholarship has been for him as someone with a transient childhood.

“I was born in Syria, and I’ve lived in France, the US, and have now settled in Melbourne. I naturally became very independent because I always had to force myself to learn a new language, learn a new place and adapt,” said Fadi.

Brigette Sancho, Fadi, Linna and JuliaFrom left to right: Brigette Sancho, Fadi Abo, Linna Tea and Julia Doupe.

“Always fighting your own battles of validity can take a toll, so getting that push and just knowing that I was invested in, that somebody's looking after me, and that the University's there to support and encourage me – that is a beautiful thing.”

For Bachelor of Oral Health alum (2021) Linna, receiving a Melbourne Access Scholarship helped her feel accepted into the University community – an environment that felt very foreign to her.

“I was the first of six children to attend university, and I was one of the younger kids, so going into university was an abstract idea,” said Linna.

“For me, receiving the scholarship was a big welcoming gesture, because I was really shy, and I knew I had to get outside my comfort zone in class.”

But the encouragement Linna felt from receiving her scholarship inspired her to go beyond just speaking up in a classroom setting.

“Receiving the support got me thinking, how can I be more than just your average student?” she said.

“I was a student representative for three years of my degree, I undertook different mentorship opportunities, I participated in a lot of the research projects as a participant, and I did a lot of volunteering work.”

Linna is thankful for how the scholarship encouraged her to make meaningful connections with fellow students and academics, an attitude which she continues to carry with her in her professional career.

“I think that’s shaped me into the person I am today. Even sitting here now, I'm excited to show that I'm more confident than I used to be.”

Opportunity born from generosity

Master of Agricultural Sciences student Julia said the Melbourne Future Generations Scholarship she received has been truly transformative throughout her study experience.

“The financial support was not only imperative for starting my degree, as it gave me the chance to focus purely on my studies, but also the recognition from the University that I was doing something right really reinforced my belief in myself,” said Julia.

During her undergraduate degree, Julia’s studies were disrupted by COVID-19. She was meant to attend the Dookie campus in her second year of studies which was unfortunately cancelled due to lockdowns.

Attendees mingling Scholarship recipients had the opportunity to network with donors throughout the evening.

“When the opportunity to attend the Dookie campus arose again in third year, I was desperate to go, not only to meet new people and make new friends, but also for the experience of being immersed in an agricultural system,” said Julia.

Julia did make it to the Dookie campus in her third year and received a Dookie Residential Scholarship to help with the costs associated with living away from home for a semester.

This support ended up being crucial when a last-minute lockdown was called just four days after Julia arrived.

“For me, having that financial support meant that I was able to stay, because I had been planning to travel back on weekends for work and I could no longer do that because of the lockdown.”

Julia went on to say how the scholarship support she received throughout her undergraduate degree gave her the self-confidence to apply for a research assistant position during her Master of Agricultural Science – a position she ended up securing.

“Through that opportunity, I was able to get an internship working with Rabobank as a Sustainability Analyst in Sydney over summer this year, and now I'm working part-time in the Melbourne office until I finish my degree.”

Connecting through gratitude

The three panellists also shared messages of gratitude with the donors for making such impactful changes to their studying experience and lives more broadly.

“I'd love to thank the generous donors, because without that scholarship, I reckon I would've just been the average student that just wanted to pass the degree,” said Linna.

Brigette Sancho and Linna Tea Brigette Sancho (left) and Linna Tea (right).

Fadi agreed that donor generosity has given him both the ability and encouragement to make the most of all the University of Melbourne has to offer.

“I want to say thank you to all the donors. Your support is invaluable and ensures that we can take that next step, take advantage of these opportunities, do well and become an example for other students,” said Fadi.

After the formalities closed, attendees finished the evening by continuing their conversations. Many students took the opportunity to network with the donors and make industry connections, and donors enjoyed recounting memories from their own time at the University.

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