The gift of time

Alumna and long-time volunteer encourages others to get involved.

Being an ANU graduate is a privileged position, and with privilege comes responsibility. Although you may physically depart from here, the ANU will remain a part of you forever.

Graduate Bettina Söderbaum left ANU more than 30 years ago but she still feels that the University and Burgmann College, where she was a resident, are home.

"The environment is still as special as it was when I lived here."

Over the years, Bettina has regularly returned to the University and has been instrumental in the development and success of Burgmann College.

"I've been coming back to ANU and Burgmann College almost since the day I left," she said.

Bettina is currently a member of the Board of Burgmann College, she is also Vice-President of the Burgmann Alumni Association, Secretary of the Burgmann College Council and has been a key player in developing and implementing a framework for alumni volunteering at ANU. The result of her contributions has been the new ANU Alumni Volunteer Leadership Program.

For Bettina, volunteering isn't just about giving back – she also gains a lot from it too.

"I am very honoured that I have the opportunity to have a role here. I find it very rewarding," she said.

"It's been a fantastic pleasure over the past few years meeting so many bright and talented young people who all have such interesting ideas. I've learned a lot from them and I find it very energising."

Bettina has had a lengthy career as a policy adviser and senior manager in the Australian Public Service and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, in fields as diverse as tourism, environment, development assistance and climate change.

Reflecting on her career Bettina said, "My years as an ANU student were a wonderful foundation for career and life, and my ANU degree has opened many interesting and unusual doors."

The experience and knowledge she has gained from her career were put to good use when she addressed the graduating cohort at the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences graduation ceremony in 2013. In her speech she shared the personal reward she gets out of dedicating her time to the University and Burgmann College, and encouraged others to do the same.

"Being an ANU graduate is a privileged position, and with privilege comes responsibility. Although you may physically depart from here, the ANU will remain a part of you forever. And there are others coming after you who can profit from your wisdom and your experience," she said in her address.

Bettina recently left the Public Service to pursue some personal projects, including philanthropy, creative writing and music. She currently leads a busy life volunteering in the arts, education and multicultural affairs and singing in two choirs.

Afterword: Prior to publication the University community recognised Bettina's contribution to ANU and named her ANU Alumni Volunteer of the Year at the 2014 Alumni Awards.

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