ACU campaign inspires student to promote intercultural respect on campus

ACU campaign inspires student to promote intercultural respect on campus

Published on 07 May 2018

A student who attended an ACU leadership programme last year has been inspired to organise ‘Dialogue Dinners’ to promote intercultural awareness and respect at her university.

Suzanne Buiter, an International Management fourth-year student at the University of Stirling in the UK, brought the idea back from a four-day residential trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

She was one of 30 university students from 20 Commonwealth countries selected to attend the ACU Residential School on the theme of respect and understanding.

The School, organised by the ACU in partnership with Heriot-Watt University Malaysia and not-for-profit organisation Common Purpose, brought together a diverse group of young leaders to come up with constructive tools and ideas to promote respect at their home institutions and beyond.

This was part of a wider awareness campaign, led by the ACU, to highlight the vital role universities can play in promoting mutual respect and understanding between people of different faiths, beliefs and cultures. 

Suzanne (pictured in the group shot above, sixth from the right in the front row) said: ‘There were so many people from all over the world; you had to leave all your preconceptions at the door. It was fascinating to see how they look at things so differently.

‘It also allowed me to see how well the University of Stirling is doing when it comes to inclusion, diversity and respect. Many of those attending were inspired by the initiatives we have.

‘It was a great personal experience.'

Suzanne is now hoping to organise a series of Dialogue Dinners – where diners are given a set topic to chat about – with the support of her Students’ Union and university.

Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, welcomed the news, saying: 'Last year 30 students from member universities came together in Malaysia to learn how to promote respect and understanding. Now they are affecting change in their communities, an example of how global connections lead to local impact.'

Suzanne, a faculty officer and student ambassador, was chosen to represent the University of Stirling at the ACU event by a panel chaired by Dean for Equality and Diversity Dr Tessa Parkes, with support and input from the Students’ Union.

Dr Parkes said: ‘We have been working on a series of initiatives here in the university to promote respect and understanding, including our strategy and implementation plan to prevent and tackle sexual violence. The theme of interculturalism and respect is one of the four Equality Outcomes we are working on between 2017-2021.

‘The university chose Suzanne to represent the Stirling community at this exciting leadership opportunity because of her curiosity and enthusiasm for intercultural working, and passion to get involved and make a difference as a student leader.

‘We are now actively working with Suzanne and the Students’ Union to develop follow-up initiatives connected to this experience, including the Dialogue Dinners.’

Union President Astrid Smallenbroek said: ‘I’m incredibly pleased that Suzanne got the opportunity to attend the ACU Residential School. It’s fantastic Stirling was represented internationally. I think the Dialogue Dinners idea which she has brought back will enrich interculturalism and respect at Stirling and I can’t wait to help implement them.’