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First in the family

Volume 7 Number 3 March 14 - April 10 2011

For one particular group of students, getting to University was a milestone for their families as much as it was to them, writes David Scott.

Starting university is a daunting but exciting time for many, a time for new beginnings, new connections and new skills. But for one group of students set to start studying the Bachelor of Commerce this month, being a university student has taken on a whole new meaning.

The six students – Avalon Arifin, Tran Danmy, Wing Dat Ho, Kietman Wu, Dalex Truong and Xing Shuang – are the first in their immediate families to ever go to university.

“To be the first person in my family to study at a university is a big achievement,” says Danmy. “Both my parents received an education level of under year ten, so I am very happy and excited.

“My parents are definitely proud of me. They always wanted me to go to university and now that I’m about to study, I’ve become a role model for my two younger brothers who I hope one day will join in my foot steps and go to university as well.”

For Danmy, achieving his goal of studying at the University of Melbourne was not something he ever expected to happen. “I always thought that I wouldn’t get the necessary scores to be able to get in such a prestigious and renowned school, until I realised I might have an opportunity to if I tried really hard.

“I’m looking forward to it. A university qualification enables me to expand my future, and lets me open doors to places I want to go, and jobs I want to do. It expands my knowledge and makes me proud knowing that I achieved something that my parents always wanted to.”

Danmy and the others are all recipients of a new scholarship from the Faculty of Business and Economics, the aptly titled ‘First in the Family’ scholarship program offered to local students under the Access Melbourne criteria. Students receive monetary support for their first year at Melbourne, while also getting priority consideration for residency at Ormond College.

Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research does research on the impact of education. She says scholarships like this recognise that for these students, going to university is just as much about changing things for themselves as it is for their families. “Education is the absolute key to inter-generational social mobility,” says Professor Cobb-Clark. “People who have grown up in disadvantaged circumstances find it harder to access the education system.”

“When no one in your family has gone to university before, it can be incredibly daunting to make such a transition, and the First in the Family scholarship program addresses this challenge head on.”

The scholarship program was made possible by alumni donations, matched by a Faculty contribution, and coincides with the forthcoming launch of the Melbourne Foundation for Business & Economics.

To be officially launched on 15 March, the Foundation aims to raise further funds to support scholarships and bursaries for students in business and economics. The Faculty also recently partnered with Western Chances, an organisation set up to support people in the Western suburbs achieve their potential, to further help support potential future students from the area.

While providing such opportunities is well received, Danmy says that you still require old fashioned hard work to realise your dreams. “I would say have confidence in yourself, work hard to attain your goals and then you’ll get there. And don’t be intimidated by people whose parents went to University!”