Flinders University recently played host to the final of the SA Evatt Model UN competition, Australia’s premier debating and diplomacy competition.
Strengthening the University’s profile of holding the number one political science program offered in SA, students can develop and apply underpinning skills and experience in leadership, problem solving, adaptability, teamwork, communication, negotiation, and creativity.
Flinders lecturer in International Relations and Coordinator of the Master of International Relations, Luis da Vinha believes the UN simulation gives high school students the chance to appreciate the complexity of in international politics.
“International events are shaping our political, economic, and social milieu in a way not seen in decades,” Luis says.
“The Evatt Model UN competition is an excellent opportunity for students to engage with some of these debates and improve their understanding of how some of the most relevant issues in international politics are addressed.”
Flinders proudly welcomed back graduate Sam Taylor (BSc(MarBiol)(Hons) ’10, GradCertLang ’11) to address the teams on the day. Taking a break from negotiating, participants heard from Samuel who had originally pursued his love for science at Flinders, becoming involved in leadership opportunities and driving community change, and is now based in Canberra as a Public Affairs Officer at the Department of Home Affairs.
Sam is also Co-Founder and Managing Director of Gläshaus, a business advisory and strategic planning consultancy, Co-Founder and Director of Everett Swim, a sustainable swimwear brand, and a Director at Speak Entertainment, which is advocating for the Formula E in Australia, as well as an independent director on a range of not-for-profit charitable, professional and NGO boards.
“People usually laugh when I tell them I studied to become a marine biologist, because their first reaction is to be bemused by the apparent chasm between science and public policy and communications,” Sam says.
“But as a trained scientist, I often find that I can very quickly build rapport with technical experts at my workplace.
“Having a multidisciplinary background really empowers me to think outside the box when it comes to strategy and persuasive ideas as a communications professional, both in private consulting and in government public affairs.”
Although Sam didn’t have the chance to compete in the Evatt debate himself when in school, he jumped at similar local and international initiatives to broaden his skillset, fully understanding how valuable coming together to share ideas and solve problems can be for young people.
“Deliberately placing yourself in confronting and challenging situations, where you are forced to question and defend why you have a particular conviction, is an important skill in protecting robust democracy,” he says.
“The art of rhetoric, and a commitment to transparency and being evidence-based, is important for communicating and persuading ideas. So, competitions like Evatt are important because they build those skills and grow respect for healthy debate.”
Looking back on his time at Flinders, Sam is grateful for the solid foundation it set at the beginning of what is already an inspiring career and hoped to impart some of that drive for lifelong learning and growth onto the students about to contribute to public life.
But even more important is the ethos and value-set of the university, which he says, “has a focus on social justice, human rights, and challenging the status quo through evidence-based creativity.”
As for entering the world of public service and making a difference, Sam had some sound advice.
“I hope you are eager to learn how to do new things, and actively seek out a multidisciplinary life,” he said.
“Put yourself in a position where you have to figure out what to do – that’s when you will maximise the opportunities for your brain to come up with new ideas. It’s not necessarily about knowing the answers; it’s about thinking of the right questions.
“Don’t just go to university. Don’t just get a job. I encourage you to be a multidisciplinary thinker, make your time count, and set an example that inspires others.”