Univative 2015 is a unique inter-university Consulting competition involving teams of students from Macquarie University, University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Wollongong and University of Western Sydney.
The interviews with three respected coordinators from Macquarie University-Vicki George (Central Univative Coordinator), Serene Lin-Stephens and Tyree Barnette provided more valuable insights into the competition.
The competition runs from April-July each year, with the active management occurring in June and July. Participating organisations provide a realistic business problem for teams of 4 – 6 students to solve. At the end of July, a final report is produced, followed by a presentation of their proposal to a panel of judges from the host organisation.
“Univative has several unique characteristics such as work-integrated and problem-based learning, and community and industry engagement. It is designed to provide an environment in which local and international students from different disciplines mix meaningfully and work together for local businesses.”
“Students develop cross-cultural communication and cross-discipline project management skills while participating organisations gain the best results by having students’ fresh and outside-of-the-box perspective,” – Serene
As per coordinators, the competition is an exhaustive process and involves hard work.
- It begins with a series of planning and meetings to assign tasks, confirm project hosts, decide launch dates, on-site briefing and presentations as well as booking venues on campus, at host employer sites and Study NSW.
- The meetings run from January to April, followed by advertisements for student applications by participating Universities.
- The applications will then be screened and final applicants are selected based on specific criteria. At the end of the competition, in August, a debrief session is held to provide certificates and feedback to the students.
- Planning for next year’s event also starts and the entire process occurs all over again.
Expectations from Students
“We welcome international as well as local students, from all faculties and at all stages of their study program” – Vicki
Serene expects students to turn their different backgrounds and perspectives into strengths as a team. Students are trusted with the freedom to innovate, but still need to adhere to clients’ expectation and work within teamwork and professional standards.
Tyree says, “We look for a mix of heavily involved high achievers along with students who haven’t quite figured out what they enjoy yet. In doing this, we assist the students in improving their employability skills, getting some real-world experience with clients and proposals, and learn valuable lessons about teamwork, project management, presentations, and time management.”
Experiences in Univative-2015
In the words of Serene: “The adrenaline roller coaster of the entire process is something I go through every year, which refreshes and energises me. I always feel very humbled to see how the students work things out among themselves, carrying out individual tasks, shaping their work into a cohesive whole, packaging it nicely and delivering it in the reports and presentation.”
She also notes that the precious friendships and networking connections formed between peers and employers typically continue to grow past the competition.
Tyree believes that these projects are even tougher than reality because of limited time and resources. Students also have to juggle their daily tasks, jobs and study. He thinks that all pupils made incredible strides – especially the quieter students who weren’t accustomed or used to public speaking. He was especially proud of them because he grew up with that same shyness.
Vicki says, “I think this year some of the teams were off to a bit of a slow start, and there were moments when we wondered if the presentations were going to come together in time. But, the surprising thing was that in all cases they did! In particular, I thought the written report from the Salvo’s team was of an exceptionally high standard this year.”
The career staff at Macquarie Uni are exploring the possibility of students receiving some sort of additional credit, certification, or other notable academic-related credit for the program. In Tyree’s opinion, “Many put in dozens of hours of personal time, and for the students that don’t win or score an internship, we feel that their time still deserves additional recognition.”
A word of advice
Serene advises students to keep growing and nurturing the relationships. According to her, a critical factor in winning in a project competition like this is the ability to communicate one’s work in a simple way and speak directly to the core of the client’s need. She hopes that participants will continue to nurture the skills they have developed throughout the competition for future endeavors.
“Any line of work will have tight deadlines, complications and conflict. Know that you have been challenged and stretched thin before and you have survived. And if you have any regrets – use it as fuel for the next project.” Tyree
Vicki advises students to start preparing early and do plenty of research before defining their ideas. To deliver a clear message, simplicity and an understanding of the host organisation’s values is always a good idea.
Vicki advises students to “focus on your presenting skills as these are crucial and can make or break the impact of your final presentation. While delivering your presentation, keep in mind that you are being watched even if you are not speaking at the time, and be sure to maintain a professional and engaged ‘stage presence’ at all times.”
The Macquarie career team would love to have participants from Univative 2015 to be student mentors for future competition since their experiences.