Each year, Professor Shirley Alexander (Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education and Students) and the UTS Council Student Council Liaison Group host a forum for students. Students decide on the theme and provide feedback directly to members of the executive and the UTS Council. In the past, some of the themes of the forum have been: creating a sense of belonging, redesigning summer session, and engaging students in university decision-making.

This year’s hackathon: developing soft skills

This year, the theme of the student forum was developing soft skills – or what might be more properly called ‘core skills’ – in students. As has been the practice over the past few iterations of the student forum, the session was designed as a hackathon, with students responding to the ‘How Might We’ statement “how might we develop soft skills in students?”.

The hackathon is a feedback session, a learning opportunity and a competition. One of the proposals is selected for further implementation, with the team that developed that proposal offered a four-week internship with UTS to bring it to life.

The facilitator this year was Professor Bem Le Hunte, Course Director of the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation in the UTS Transdisciplinary School. She first provided a really engaging introduction to transdisciplinary methods, and our industry partners (more about them below) discussed what skills employers and recruiters are looking for. Students then used these new skills and industry advice in randomly allocated teams to develop a project proposal – all online of course. The judging panel of our industry partners included:

  • Stella Petrou Concha, CEO of REO Group
  • Dorotea Baljević, General Manager of Data Science Services at Lend Lease Digital
  • Michelene Collopy, member of the UTS Council, Chair of the Student/Council Liaison Group and an industry finance executive
  • From UTS, Professor Alexander and Professor Le Hunte.

The panel then heard two-minute pitches from each group about their ideas.

Emerging themes

The themes emerging from the hackathon indicated that students are very interested in strengthening their skills in analytical thinking, resiliency, leadership, time-management, and communication skills, and had great ideas about how the university could support them to do so. The project proposal that was deemed to have a strong balance of a valuable skill, an innovative approach, feasibility of implementation and a vision for the proposed outcome was developed by Group 5.

Winners of the hackathon: a student mentor program

Group 5’s proposal for a mentoring program to develop self-mastery and connection was considered to be a thoughtful proposal that considered a range of student needs. Student interactions with each other shape their sense of belonging and their development of core skills at UTS and their pitch was seen to have strong potential to influence the future of these student experiences.

Group 5 was, like all the groups, randomly assigned by the Zoom breakout function, and includes undergraduate and postgraduate students, from FEIT, Business and Law, international and domestic, studying in Australia and from overseas. The diversity of this group reflects the diversity and strengths of UTS overall, and we really look forward to seeing the outcomes of their internship within the UTS Student Learning Hub, and the positive impacts it has to students across UTS. 

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