The group of Vice Chancellor's Leadership Scholars stand on the balcony of a building at the UNiversity of Wollongong with Professor Patricia Davidson. Photo: Mark Newsham

Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholars recognises next generation of changemakers

Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholars recognises next generation of changemakers

Young leaders encouraged to seize every opportunity during time at UOW

Life is full of sliding doors, seemingly simple moments that can change the shape and direction of your future path.

It is a feeling that University of Wollongong (UOW) Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Patricia M Davidson knows all too well, having benefited from acts of kindness and sparks of generosity as she has moved through her career.

This week (Wednesday 6 March), during a welcome event for the 2024 cohort of Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholars.  

“Back in my student years, if you had told me that one day I’d be a Vice-Chancellor, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was just a young person finding my way in the world. But I remember vividly all the kindness, generosity and care shown to me by the teachers and staff at UOW. It was here I formalised my views on health and social justice. And I’ve come to realise that life is full of sliding doors—moments where a simple act of kindness or a supportive gesture can change someone’s life. This belief in the power of mentorship and support has driven me throughout my career.

“I really hope that this scholarship will be a sliding door moment for all of you - and will propel you towards achieving incredible heights.”

Fifteen first-year students were announced as the recipients of the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholarship during an intimate ceremony held on the Wollongong campus this week.

The students, who hail from across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Far South Coast, South Western Sydney, and Queanbeyan as well as India, are pursuing a range of degrees, including law, science, education, arts, mathematics, psychology and international studies.

UOW Vice Chancellor Professor Patricia Davidson speaks at the lectern during the scholarship launch event. Photo: Mark Newsham UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Patricia M Davidson speaks at the scholarship launch event. Photo: Mark Newsham

Now in its third year, the Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholarship seeks to inspire young, passionate leaders and give them the knowledge, skills, and worldviews to be future change makers.

Open to students who attend high school in the Wollongong, Sutherland, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven, Eden-Monaro, and Wingecarribee local government areas, the scholarship provides generous financial assistance, leadership training, dedicated academic support, community networking, and global mobility opportunities.

Professor Davidson congratulated this year’s group of scholars and said she hoped they seize every opportunity that comes their way during their time at UOW.

“Each of you has demonstrated exceptional qualities in leadership, academic excellence, and a drive to make a difference. Your diversity of backgrounds, experiences and chosen fields of study enriches our community and reflects the values we hold dear,” Professor Davidson said.

“As you begin your journey here, remember that leadership is not only about titles or positions, but about the positive impact you can make on the lives of others. All of you have the power to spark positive change in the world. Embrace every opportunity, challenge yourself, and don’t forget to have the best of times.”

For Samantha Meaker, who hails from Pambula Beach on the Far South Coast, a sliding doors moment came during the Discovery Days at UOW last year. It was such a positive experience that it cemented Samantha’s decision to apply to UOW, where she is now undertaking a double degree Bachelor of Psychological Science and Bachelor of Social Science (Criminology).

“UOW reminded me of the best parts of home: the welcoming community, the beach, and the supportive and friendly culture,” she said.

Samantha Meaker, wearing a gold necklace and black t-shirt, has a smile on her face. Photo: Paul Jones Vice-Chancellor's Leadership Scholar Samantha Meaker. Photo: Paul Jones

Samantha was thrilled to discover that she had received one of the prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholarships.

“When I found out, I was incredibly overwhelmed with emotions. I was mixed with shock, nervousness and pride, the combination of which resulted in tears as I called my parents,” she said. “I was incredibly honoured, knowing UOW had put this trust in me to use the opportunities the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship provides to my full potential.”

Her decision to study psychological science and criminology was inspired by her HSC Legal Studies class, which piqued her interest in the field.

“At UOW, I am aiming to gain the knowledge and skills to pursue my dream career, a forensic psychologist. I hope to bring awareness and ultimately justice to the criminal and legal systems around our country.”

Jack Lenihan, who came to Wollongong from the small town of Narooma on the Far South Coast, is undertaking a double degree Bachelor of International Studies and Bachelor of Law. He said receiving the Vice-Chancellor’s Leadership Scholarship has been life changing.

“I have gained access to incredible opportunities and met amazing people. The financial assistance the scholarship offers has also allowed me to focus on my studies and aspirations in a way that would not be possible without such generous support,” he said.

Jack Lenihan, wearing all black clothes, sits on a bench at Wollongong campus. Photo: Paul Jones Vice-Chancellor's Leadership Scholar Jack Lenihan. Photo: Paul Jones

“I want to use my degree to prevent human rights violations, such as war crimes and genocides. Throughout my time at UOW, I plan to make the most of my education and the opportunities offered to me. I will never hesitate to put my hand up for anything thrown my way, and I know this will help me to reach my goals and dreams for the future.”

2024 Vice-Chancellor Leadership Scholarship Recipients

  • Suzanne Abou Shalah, Bachelor of Pre-Medicine, Science and Health,
  • Chaitanya Ambike [2023 recipient who deferred to commence in Autumn], Bachelor of Mathematics Advanced
  • Savannah Archer, Bachelor of Communications and Media
  • Indi Bellhouse, Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Dean’s Scholar)
  • Sarah Koschny, Bachelor of Science Advanced (Honours)
  • Jack Lenihan, Bachelor of International Studies - Bachelor of Laws
  • Ryan Lim, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Laws
  • Meika Lindsay, Bachelor of Primary Education
  • Samantha Meaker, Bachelor of Psychological Science - Bachelor of Social Science
  • Sally Murphy, Bachelor of Arts - Bachelor of Laws
  • Charli Ryan, Bachelor of Primary Education
  • Charlotte Sewell, Bachelor of Science - Bachelor of Laws
  • Dylan Sharp, Bachelor of Psychology (Honours)
  • Aaliyah Webb, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Scholar)
  • Rose Yousiph, Bachelor of Arts