The view from the road — Geoff Burchfield

If it’s Monday this must be Townsville. That’s what it sometimes feels like when you’re on the NYSF Orientations circuit. Actually it was Mackay and this was the Queensland leg of the 2013 tour. As people arrived for the 6 o’clock event at Mackay’s Ocean International Hotel I was struck again by how far many of the attendees had travelled and how much work goes into organising and coordinating these meetings.

Geoff Burchfield makes a point during Orientations 2013 comp

Geoff Burchfield makes a point during Orientations 2013

This year four of us from the office – Damien Pearce, Sandra Meek, Tom Grace, and myself – shared the privilege of attending Orientation meetings around the country — all 26 of them. There’s at least one meeting in each of the Rotary districts but some districts are so large that there can be as many as three meetings. District 9550 for instance takes in much of the Northern Territory as well as the top end of Queensland necessitating separate gatherings in Darwin, Cairns and Townsville.

Irrespective of where the meetings are staged, each is quite special. At diverse venues ranging from a heritage lawn bowls club in Rockhampton to CSL’s magnificent lecture theatre in Melbourne people come to hear more about the NYSF’s upcoming January sessions. And if the gathering is quiet to begin with they’re invariably lively by the end. That has much to do with the fact that most of the attendees — a mix of parents, Rotarians, teachers, students, and community representatives — have never met before. They quickly discover they have much in common even if their home-towns are miles apart. The students in particular connect almost instantly. You’d think they’d grown up together.  

The students in particular connect almost instantly.

The formal proceedings vary considerably too. Sometimes there are interesting guest speakers and often a Rotary District Governor will have found time in their busy schedule to address the students.

Professor Nasser Khalili, Associate Dean (Research), Head of Geotechnical Engineering from University of New South Wales at the Sydney District 9675 Orientations 2013

Professor Nasser Khalili, Associate Dean (Research), Head of Geotechnical Engineering from University of New South Wales at the Sydney District 9675 Orientations 2013

Orientations 2013 in South Australia for District 9520

Geoff Burchfield and Ben Galea at Orientation Session in Brisbane October  2013

Geoff Burchfield and Ben Galea at Orientation Session in Brisbane October 2013

Parents of past NYSF students may speak about their own experience of having a son or daughter travel to Canberra or Perth and reassure the ‘new’ parents that they really have nothing to worry about. Finally members of the student staff help to deliver a presentation about the NYSF and share their own experiences. Mention of the International Program always generates interest and you can tell by the knowing looks between students and parents that negotiations have already begun.

What may not be immediately obvious, however, is that the flow of information is two-way. We learn a great deal about local opportunities for future employment, study options and community support. Representatives of Rotary clubs speak proudly of past students whose careers they’ve followed. Teachers remind us of the difficult paths some students have taken, perhaps having to do independent study because the school is only small. Hearing all this on a student’s home turf adds real perspective to what we’re trying to achieve at the NYSF. There’s a sense of making a difference not just to the lives of these young scientists but to entire communities.

Often the meeting ends with a meal or afternoon tea, sometimes generously provided by an NYSF partner organisation or even assembled by members of a local Rotary Club. (The caramel slices in Armidale this year were particularly good.)

As people head for home it’s obvious the networking has already begun. And not just among the students.

I know that it can be a lot of work for the NYSF Rotary District Chairs around the country who organise these Orientation meetings and I want to acknowledge our gratitude to each one of them and their teams.

ANU features NYSF alumna in video on studying science

NYSF student Claire Taylor and her family from Guyra in New South Wales were recently featured in this video about studying science at the Australian National University, “Making a move”.

Sam Hutton, former president of the Rotary Club of Guyra, which supported Claire’s application to attend the NYSF says, “Claire’s big shift was going to the National Youth Science Forum.”

NYSF Annual Report 2013

NYSF’s Annual Report 2013 is now available to view online.

2014 NYSF selections announced

Selections of students to attend the 2014 January NYSF Sessions held in Canberra or Perth have been finalised.

1300 applications were received this year

1300 applications were received this year, from 21 Rotary Districts across Australia. 735 females and 528 males applied, with ten of these being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. 144 students will attend each session, with ten international students coming to the Canberra Sessions. Two Indigenous students will attend the Perth Session, supported by NYSF Partner, CSL Limited.

NYSF letters offering students a place in the January programs have now been issued by the corporate team in Canberra, and students are taking up their task of entering information into the NYSF database via the website portal.

Orientation sessions for the NYSF program began in Canberra early in September, and are rolling out across the country until mid October. Students are advised to contact their Rotary District Chair if they are unable to make their orientation session. The preferred option is to attend another District’s orientation, however if this is not possible, arrangements can be made for an individual briefing, but only as a last resort.

A key task for students at this stage is to draft a trial job application to be used during the Sessions draft a trial job application to be used during the Sessions in the job interview component of the program. Information on this is held in the student’s online account within the NYSF website.

Picture this … calling all NYSF Alumni and Staffies

Calling Staffies from NYSF in 1999 … are you in this picture?

99A_staffgroup

What about this one of staff from 1996, with Rotary colleagues?

96B_staff-rotarygroup

This just a small selection of photos that we are collating to coincide with our thirtieth anniversary this year.

Have you any pics from your time with NYSF that you would like to share?

We’re collecting photos for an exhibition we will mount at the 2014 sessions. And we’d like your snaps too. So if you’ve got them sitting in a box in the back of a cupboard, take a quiet moment to dig them out and have a look. We’d love to see them and add them to our collection. Further information contact Amanda Caldwell.