Finding optimism in a fast-changing world

11 Jun 2021

A common aspiration among university students, regardless of their discipline, is to forge a career that allows them to make a difference in the world.  

Having a desire to help solve the big challenges facing humanity is one thing, but knowing what you can actually do, and where to start, is an entirely different question.  

'Optimism and Agency in Times of Change' is a new interdisciplinary undergraduate course offered at ANU for students to discover what is within their power to change, and how to take control of their career pathway.  

Course convenor Professor Kylie Catchpole argues education goes beyond just analysing the world's problems by empowering students to find solutions. Students will learn about real-world success stories and have hands-on experience through workshops from people who have found success and meaning in their careers. 

"Sometimes students might not understand what they can do and, as a result, end up in jobs they aren't passionate about," she says. 

"At school, we are taught that certain skill sets are for certain jobs. I want to teach students to look at the application of their skills more broadly, to find innovative ways to tackle complex problems."  

"The course enables students to engage in the experimental process of figuring out how they can make a difference." 

The course, which has been co-designed by the colleges of Science and Engineering and Computer Science, will be open to undergraduate students from any discipline in semester two this year. 

Kylie is looking forward to teaching a course that she wished she had access to as a young person. 

"I did a physics degree, but halfway through I realised I wanted to do something for the environment." Kylie says. 

"I discovered the field of solar energy research and thought I'd found a perfect solution - I would use physics to help solve an environmental issue. And it has turned out to be great, but what I didn't understand at the time is that there were 20 other things I could have done that used my quantitative research skills and physics knowledge. Those 20 other options? That's what I want to open students' eyes to through this course." 

Enrol or learn more about 'Optimism and Agency in Times of Change'.