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Kate Duyvestyn
Kate Duyvestyn, director of social inclusion at Monash University. Photo: Daniel Mahon

The cost of university can be prohibitive, but your support for scholarships is opening doors for a growing number of students who, in turn, are giving back.

Kate Duyvestyn says she’s got the best job in the world. As the director of Social Inclusion at Monash University, she oversees equity scholarships under the Achieving Potential scholarship program.

Supporting people with diverse backgrounds, the scholarships provide opportunities for students who may not otherwise have had access to tertiary education. These students include refugees, Indigenous students, and people from low socio-economic backgrounds and rural or remote areas.

“I get to do what I love, and that’s to make sure more people have the opportunity to go to university,” Kate says. “And to really see the impact on students – to see them grow and develop, and to see the difference in their smile from one year to the next – is enormous.”

The four Achieving Potential scholarships – Humanitarian, Community Leaders, Accommodation and General Support – assist in several ways. “They really enable students to focus on their studies, but also to participate more in all the extracurricular activities university has to offer – and we think those experiences are really important because they ensure better graduate outcomes,” she says.

More than 6500 students are supported by equity scholarships, funded by Monash and through the generosity of alumni and other supporters.

Alongside substantial funding for the University for many years, the recent growth in the program, Kate says, has been possible thanks to the generosity of the donor and student community. In particular, an increase in donations has allowed programs for students from under-represented communities to expand – particularly the Humanitarian scholarship and the Community Leaders scholarship.

Community Leaders

Monash Community Leaders scholars receive monetary support and mentor secondary school students from under-represented communities, helping them make the transition to university.

Having started in 2012 with 90 school students and 35 mentors, the program now supports more than 600 mentees and 400 mentors annually.

Tertiary and school students with similar interests and backgrounds are matched, allowing mentors to give tailored advice to mentees and help students prepare
for university life.

“The program has a massive impact – not only on the school students who transition very well (retention rates for former mentees are higher than the general student body), but also on the mentors themselves,” Kate says. “The money helps, but it’s the experience they get so much out of.”

Through a ‘cycle of mentoring’, the scholars are supported by mentor leaders themselves, helping to make connections within the University and transition to the workforce.

They build communication and professional skills, gain leadership experience and, in turn, share that knowledge with their mentees.

Humanitarian support

Also of great pride to Kate is the growth of the Humanitarian Scholarship – an initiative strongly supported by alumni and students through individual donations and the fundraiser Run for Refugees. Awarded to asylum-seeker students who would otherwise be subject to full international student fees, these scholarships, offered to two students in the program’s first year and 28 in its most recent, pay those fees and provide a bursary for living expenses.

For these students, the scholarship is the difference between attending university or not, and that significant impact, Kate says, is why these scholarships have garnered such grassroots support.

“Students are very socially aware, and they recognise the impact education has and that it’s not necessarily available to all,” she says. “They want to help people to have the same opportunities they have, and they don’t have to give a lot, but every little bit helps.”

“Many students receiving scholarships want to contribute back and give someone else that support ... They are saying, ‘I’ve been given this opportunity and I want to support somebody else to have the same experience.”

Kate says she expects support for scholarships to continue to grow as their impacts build.

“Scholars are doing lots of different things, but quite a lot are going into social enterprises – and they want to just keep giving back and having an impact,” she says.

Arnav Prasad

Arnav Prasad, Community Leaders scholar, Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Commerce Specialist

I’ve always been enthusiastic about education and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to pursue whatever they’re passionate about.

My mentees have grown more self-reliant. They can now manage their time more effectively, and balance their studies and free time. They have a better idea of what they want to pursue in university and their future careers. I’ve benefited from this relationship because it has strengthened my interpersonal skills and ability to communicate effectively.

Thank you for your generous donations. The scholarship has been a huge help. University has many expenses – books, stationery, parking and so on. The scholarship enables me not to worry about these and focus on my education.

Ankita Sehgal

Ankita Sehgal, Community Leaders scholar, Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Global Studies

I loved the idea of supporting students in high school with VCE and the transition to university through the Access Monash Mentoring program. I’m able to provide my mentees with insight into university through my own experience.

I think my mentees have grown more in confidence with the transition from high school to university. They have also developed clearer communication skills.

A big thankyou to the donors of this scholarship; it has made a world of difference for me. Before, I was working multiple jobs to support myself, but now I don’t need to stress about my university expenses.

And I’m able to give back through the program to support high school students with VCE and the transition to university.

More information

To find out more about how you can help students from under-represented communities, contact Gillian Dodgin at gillian.dodgin@monash.edu.

Words: Melissa Marino