The value of a UWA degree

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UWA and me

I came to UWA in 2014, studying a double-major in Art History and Literature. Given I wasn’t very notable academically, athletically, or socially, I decided to spread myself thin over extracurricular activities. I got involved in mock trials, squash, drama, volunteering, and self-published a host of poorly-written articles in the student newspaper. I made incredible friends in these activities, who turned out to motivate me more than I ever could have myself. In 2017 I took up a postgraduate Law degree, and in 2018 I took on the Presidency of Ignite Mentoring, a charity working to tackle education inequality in Perth schools.

The real power of an organised institution 

UWA has three floors of non-fiction texts, two table-tennis tables and one bar, which is all a young person needs for an education. Even independent of my own activities, UWA has shown me the real power of an organised institution. The first time I came here, I remember being amazed at the campus; not only its physical presence, but the fact it was built as a place of learning for all different types of people. That feeling has never wavered. UWA remains a place where people are challenged, broken down and pushed to achieve more in their own area of interest. I’m constantly interested to hear about the things people are doing here and inspired to do better by their example.

In the name of learning

My current focus is education at all different levels. I love reading, studying, and teaching, and I want to continue doing it as long as I can. My own opportunities are a product of the people that took time to instruct me and the formative education I was given.

Unfortunately, education in Australia is largely determined by postcode. The education most of us were given was afforded to us by chance. If you are from a poorer suburb, or Indigenous, you will have significantly lower access to quality education and less opportunities because of it. This of course doesn’t need to be the case. If we begin addressing the inequalities in the system, and driving for informed policy changes to our current arrangement, it can slowly but surely be redressed. We can do this in the name of learning, which has gotten us all where we are today.

We all need mentors

The research shows that formal instruction only makes up part of an education. Students learn by modelling themselves off others outside of the classroom and following the examples of those around them. We all need mentors because there's no guide-book to life and because, if there was, no one would bother to read it. It is easier, and in fact unavoidable, that we learn by imitating. We embody what we see in others, and strive to do as they do.

But a good mentor cannot only lead by example, because students are inevitably different and will have differing experiences. Rather than showing them specifically what to do or where to go, a good mentor will push their students to ask themselves questions, to be self-critical, to be resilient, and to reach for the opportunities they find most valuable.

Words of wisdom

As an undergraduate, grades are the most important thing, but students can do really well academically and still have a lot of time left over for extracurriculars. Say yes to all opportunities, figure out which ones you like best, and give them everything.

About Harry

Harry Sanderson is an Arts/Law student at UWA, former district-league Table Tennis champion, founder of the UWA Literature Society, and current President of Ignite Mentoring.

You can follow Ignite Mentoring on Facebook, Instagram and on the website