University student inspires others to ‘embrace the diversity of culture’ and strive for better leadership

University student inspires others to ‘embrace the diversity of culture’ and strive for better leadership

Published on 06 June 2018

A student took his experience from our Residential School and is inspiring others at his university to ‘embrace the diversity of culture’ and strive for better leadership.

Bilu Kasanda, a student at Divine Word University in Papua New Guinea, 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 was organised by the ACU in partnership with Heriot-Watt University Malaysia and not-for-profit organisation Common Purpose, and took place in Malaysia last December. It 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. 

Bilu Kasanda and other Divine Word University students

Bilu (pictured above, bottom right) said: ‘I found out that group work is much more valuable because we are able to give different points of views from different cultures on certain issues for the common purpose.’

This struck a chord with Bilu who is from Papua New Guinea where over 800 languages are spoken. The language diversity creates cultural divide amongst its citizens. Bilu wanted to reduce stigma and prejudice between these regions and believed that group dialogue was the best solution. This is how he came up with Coffee Dialoguing, a bimonthly event held at all six of the student residences on campus, where students can come together to discuss important topics.

Bilu explained: ‘The main objective is to get students to come together and be inclusive and promote diverse culture around the country.

‘Introducing such activities will engage students to understand the values of one’s own culture and embrace the other in the society.’

As well as Coffee Dialoguing, Bilu also set up a Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Programme, which aims to prepare students for the employment landscape after university.

Bilu said: ‘The goals of the program are to effectively prepare students to understand the aspects of cultural intelligence, emotional intelligence, diversity and inclusion, and the right type of leadership model that is needed in any organization.’

In just its first semester, they already have 32 students taking the course. The programme is eight weeks long and topics include: Emotional Awareness, Emotional Management, Social Emotional Awareness and Relationship Management.

In the final week of the programme, Father Phillip Gibbs held a seminar on Leadership Training for the students. As well as a vital source of education, the seminar received media attention from the PNG National Newspaper, inspiring many students to continue their work in promoting respect and understanding.

Gibbs himself said: ‘A good leader is a person who is emotionally intelligent.’

Bilu Kasanda and graduates from the first Diversity and Inclusion Programme

When asked if he had plans to continue his projects, Bilu said: ‘Yes. I want to see this program facilitated into all Universities, Colleges and Higher Institutions in Papua New Guinea to train the young student leaders to be more respectful, tolerant and intelligent.

‘In that way, we will create a better future with peace and harmony in the commonwealth nations and across the globe.’