Currently, 16% of the global population is composed of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years old—that is 1.2 billion people. The influence and impact of this generation should not be underestimated. We are witnessing this as they become drivers of change in their communities and actively engage in difficult but important conversations about pressing global issues. As digital natives, they have grown up seeing stories of ordinary people making a difference by raising their voices and standing up for what they believe in. For institutions to make real and lasting progress, the youth must be provided with an open platform where they can share their views on the matters that directly impact them.
There are a few opportunities that we, as students, have available to get actively involved and contribute to how the University functions. One such opportunity is the Student Voice Group (SVG)—a group of undergraduate and postgraduate students who suggest and offer feedback on initiatives that could enhance the student experience. I am pleased to have been a member of the SVG as one of the Student Voice Champions selected from South Asia last year. The process was straightforward; we had to write the reasons why we wanted to join the SVG and what past experiences could prove useful for this role. In our induction meeting, we all briefly introduced ourselves and shared what motivated us to apply. A reason that nearly everyone cited was to have a sense that we truly belonged to this global community, that the University takes great pride in, and avail the chance to network.
The diversity of our student body meant being mindful of the variety of unique circumstances that could potentially put a student at a disadvantage. These factors were always on our minds during our SVG meetings. Being empathetic and considerate of the experiences of others became even more necessary in March when the University had to announce conducting online assessments in lieu of written assessments, because of the pandemic. As the SVG, we shared our views on what information had to be communicated with students to ensure messaging was clear. It took several drafts and we were glad to see our feedback incorporated. Another important development to encourage inclusivity was the launch of ‘TalkCampus’ in December last year—a peer-support service to offer mental health and wellbeing support to students. The idea was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Group.
Being a member of the SVG reminds me of the strength of collaborative effort: 24 students—based across the world, studying different courses, having unique career goals—joined with the hope of making a humble contribution that could improve the experience for everyone. I would highly encourage current students to apply this year. You just need to be someone who comes prepared to the meetings, ready to listen, willing to engage in a conversation, and does not hesitate to voice your opinions.
Considering today's global youth population is larger than ever before and we are often the group most affected by change—both nationally and globally—it's now on us to proactively create and drag our own seats to the negotiating table that will decide our future.
Sara is an Economics and Finance student in Pakistan.