but go further!

Opinion: by Thomas Mackay

UQ Senate member Thomas Mackay explains how students and alumni can actively make a difference to social causes close to their hearts.

I pride myself on being a very busy person. Fortunately, being a young adult and part of an active community like UQ makes it easy to stay busy. Opportunities to be involved in social movements, volunteer organisations, student clubs or societies, and social enterprises are more abundant than ever, and supporting them can be as easy as clicking ‘like’ on your Facebook feed.

However, while it’s all well and good to ‘like’ an inspirational post from World Wildlife Fund on Facebook, follow a social enterprise on Instagram, or give your mate a pat on the back for planting 250 trees, does it really make a difference? ‘Slacktivism’ is a term coined to describe feel-good acts that in reality make little to no difference to the social or just cause. If you ‘like’, ‘share’, ‘tweet’ or ‘gram’ an issue that means a lot to you, wouldn’t it make more sense to go out and do something practical to support it?

UQ provides a number of ways for students to get involved with a variety of causes. Once you graduate, it can be more difficult to identify and access these opportunities. The UQ Young Alumni Advisory Board is a group of highly motivated and passionate UQ alumni who are dedicated to ensuring young alumni remain connected to the University and are aware of the various opportunities to get involved.

As a previous member myself, I’ve seen first-hand how young alumni engage with the various events held throughout the year to connect with like-minded peers, find their own or collective passion, and take the next step to create change.

While I’m a busy UQ medical student, I still find time in my week to support issues, causes and organisations that matter to me, while also leveraging the things I’m good at. For example, being a student mentor and peer tutor at UQ and volunteering at a student research conference are activities that have combined my passion (empowering young people) and skills (science and medicine). It’s easy to identify relevant opportunities once you realise what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about.

More recently, my passion and skills have evolved. In 2015, I was elected as the postgraduate student member for the half (2016–2017) term of the 33rd UQ Senate. My role as a Senate member provides a link between Senate and the UQ student community. The other members who comprise the Senate are diverse, each bringing their own knowledge and expertise to the role. As the peak governing body of the University, the Senate’s primary role is to provide oversight of all the University’s activities. This ranges from approving the University’s strategic direction and budget, through to awarding honorary degrees and presiding over certain issues that arise from the University’s day-to-day operations.

Being one of 22 members of what is essentially the ‘Board of Directors’ of a global top 50 university is quite humbling and a tremendous responsibility. I’m also proud to sit on the Buildings and Grounds Senate Committee, which is responsible for approving changes and additions to the built and natural environment that UQ is so famous for.

While my period on the Senate is unlikely to revolutionise the way UQ operates, I know that the time, dedication and passion I lend to the University through my endeavours not only benefits me and the people I represent, but also the University community as a whole. So, the next time you ‘like’ a cause, consider how you could take your support one step further – it might be the start of creating change.

UQ will be holding Senate elections in October 2017 and voting will be online. A call for nominations will take place in July 2017. Please ensure you have updated your contact details at alumni.uq.edu.au/update-your-details. To learn more about the elections, visit uq.edu.au/senate.

About the author

Thomas Mackay (pictured) is both an alumnus and current student at UQ, having graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 2014 before commencing a Doctor of Medicine in 2015 and a Master of Public Health in 2016. A current member of the UQ Senate, Thomas has also been closely involved with the University as a tutor (teaching a first-year physiology course), a student mentor within the Faculty of Science, a member of the Young Alumni Advisory Board for 2014–15, and Co-Chair of UQ’s Young Scholars Program for 2013–14 and 2014–15.

Thomas is the Treasurer-elect of the UQ Medical Society for 2017 and has a keen interest in medical student advocacy and collaboration. Combining his interests in medicine and public health, Thomas aspires to be a medical leader in Australia.