Looking to gain valuable skills, make a difference in your community and boost your employability prospects? Look no further than ANU+, the award-winning program that encourages students to give back and reflect on their co-curricular experiences.
ANU+ is a program that recognises the experience and contribution of undergraduate and postgraduate students who volunteer. The program encourages students to develop skills related to employability prospects, reflect on co-curricular experiences, and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.
The ANU+ award, which appears on the academic transcript of successful participants, requires volunteering for a minimum of 20 hours and submitting reflections on development outcomes throughout the volunteering journey. The program provides opportunities to support skill development, such as completing a strengths assessment and a tailored career planning appointment. The ANU+ award opens a world of opportunities, widens horizons, and contributes to the academic transcript.
To celebrate National Volunteering Week (15 May - 21 May), the On Campus team interviewed two ANU+ students who are set to graduate from the program at the end of Semester 1, 2023.
Jade Vlatkovic, third-year Bachelor of Health Science undergraduate student
Jade Vlatkovic, a third-year Bachelor of Health Science undergraduate student, participated in the ANU+ program and volunteered in several roles, including as patrol leader at Surf Life Saving Australia, a volunteer with the Youth Program and Home Visits Program run through Vinnies ACT and a stage manager and events assistant at the 2023 National Multicultural Festival. Her favourite role was with Vinnies - they provided her with several free training courses and other opportunities she otherwise wouldn't have had access to.
Reflecting on her time with ANU+, Jade says she gained several skills through the program, including self-awareness, personal and social responsibility, inclusion, and leadership. Volunteering allowed her to explore different areas of interest, develop skills in resilience, communication, and community engagement, and feel part of the community. It also taught her the value of giving back and opened her eyes to a world outside of studying and the University.
Volunteering also allowed Jade to build community and make friends through the program.
"I felt part of the community and that my experience was valued, whilst also being able to support those without a voice and ensuring that the people we were helping felt included and connected."
Jade found volunteering easy to incorporate into her schedule, and she advises others to contribute what they can.
"My experience volunteering was easy. You don't need to move mountains, it's as simple as helping someone no matter how small the task. You just need to be kind. There are no expectations on you as a volunteer and you should only contribute what you can as that is all that's being asked. Volunteering is filled with people from all walks of life, and everyone contributes differently to every endeavour. This diversity created such an inclusive and educational environment."
She says volunteering helped her gain a new outlook on life.
"Volunteering provides a distraction from our self-centred lives, and it allows you to put your challenges in perspective; when you volunteer you get a set of skills without even noticing. For example, public speaking, time management, effective communication, problem solving and leading by example. Volunteering can help you develop skills that you may not realize you are acquiring, and these skills can help you balance your commitments, including your studies, in all areas of your life."
Angus Dunne, postgraduate student
Angus Dunne, a postgraduate student at ANU, has found that volunteering with the ANU+ program has been an enriching experience. He is currently finishing his final semester studying for his Master of Science in Agricultural Innovation. He says that the ANU+ program has been an invaluable part of this university experience.
Angus joined ANU+ to develop his skills, meet new people, and give back to the community.
He took on several volunteering roles, including with the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Food Co-op. He found these volunteering opportunities by searching online for opportunities he was passionate about. His favourite role involved co-coordinating a rooftop garden for The Food Co-op to grow food for their meals and to educate members about ecological systems. His work has even led to a successful community grant application to fund the garden into the future.
In his time with the Australian Conservation Foundation, he took part in numerous community building projects which he found highly rewarding. One of the highlights was advocating for an electric suburb pilot.
Through ANU+, Angus was able to gain skills in leadership, problem-solving, networking, and advocacy. He found that his volunteering experience expanded his abilities and built confidence in the skills he already had. Additionally, he developed strong relationships that helped create a sense of belonging and contributed to the community.
The program also allowed Angus to develop a good network of friends and community contacts, which has proven to be invaluable.
He highly recommends this program to other students, saying, "This is a great opportunity to use your talents for something meaningful and something you are passionate about and helps you build strong skills for the future."
When it came to balancing his studies and the program, he has some helpful advice to other students.
"It can be a challenge to not overcommit, a lot of the volunteering opportunities are fun activities that you may want to be a part of. I looked at this program as helpful break from studies and it gave me a better understanding of my own studies as I volunteered in the field."
Overall, Angus's experience with ANU+ has been a positive one. He has gained new skills, made connections, and contributed to the community. His experience is a testament to the impact that volunteering can have, not only on the community but also on oneself.