Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: Leadership symposium inspires action

Sharleen and Pavee

The University Scholars Leadership Symposium is a week-long leadership development training program. The symposium brings together 1,000 of the world’s most promising leaders to one stimulating platform in the heart of Asia. Sharleen Shergill and Pavee Patanasiri, two students from our Law School, attended the conference, sponsored in part by the Faculty.

The program is designed for young people who are committed to making the world a much better place for the human race. Held annually in a developing country in the Asia Pacific region, more than 4,300 emerging young leaders from over 60 countries have undergone this international event. The 2017 symposium was held from 1-7 August at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand.

Delegates spent the week listening to a range of world-renowned life coaches and motivational speakers, participating in workshops and humanitarian service projects, and networking with other delegates from across the world. For these future leaders, the one-week learning experience is a platform for personal development and attaining practical life skills.

We caught up with Sharleen and Pavee to find out more about their experience.


“Life is all about how you make people feel and the impression you leave with them.”
Sharleen at a school

I would like to begin by saying that no matter what words I use; it will not be enough to describe the journey I went on. The overall conference was focused around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals the UN has introduced, with the aim of meeting them by 2030. The message of these goals is to ‘leave no one behind’.

The symposium gave me the opportunity to learn from youth leaders and listen to panel discussions hosted by people working in the UN. The talk that touched me most was by motivational speaker Simerjeet Singh. He spoke on living a purposeful live, finding your purpose and gaining results based on your priorities. The highlight of his speech was ‘kill the lizard’, i.e. the part of your brain that always tells you to sit down, not take initiative and do nothing. The only way you can kill the lizard is by taking action and stepping forward, even though it might feel unsafe.

Service Day was my favourite part, where my group focused on SDG #4 - Quality Education. We went out to a school and spent the day with primary school children. We saw their classrooms, made paper planes with them and watched the joy on their faces as we played games. Even though we couldn’t speak each other’s languages, we could still communicate through bringing out our inner child.  It made me realise that life is all about how you make people feel and the impression you leave with them.

Looking ahead, there's still a lot that needs to be done if we want to achieve these goals by 2030. This conference was a great way to raise awareness and start the conversation.


I learned that one person can make a difference.
Pavee found a new fan

This was one of the most memorable weeks of my life. Meeting people from all around the world with different worldviews and learning from leading humanitarian workers was an eye-opening experience for me. For example, discussing the issue of gender inequality with people from Kenya, Australia, Sweden and other countries was truly a unique opportunity.

Each day we heard from a range of wonderful speakers with amazing stories. For example, a woman who escaped the Taliban and her inspiring experiences as a refugee. During the breaks, we socialised with, and learned from, other delegates. My Facebook friends list has never looked so good!

For a soon-to-be graduate, this symposium opened many new career options I had never thought about. We learned about career pathways in the UN as well as humanitarian aid roles in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. I intend on applying for the trip to a refugee camp in Jordan, organised by Humanitarian Affairs.

The highlight of my trip was spending a day in Bangkok’s slum community delivering food parcels and witnessing their incredible strength and sense of community. Having emigrated from Thailand when I was young, it was a privilege to return to Bangkok as a Kiwi delegate to give back to the city.

I walked away from this symposium inspired, passionate and ready to do my part in building life and giving hope. I learned that one person can make a difference. I will leave you with what one of our speakers said: “What you are looking for is also looking for you.” Go ahead and just do it!

Last updated: 24-Aug-2017 9.15am

The information on this page was correct at time of publication. For a comprehensive overview of AUT qualifications, please refer to the Academic Calendar.