Think seriously about using the privilege of getting to study at a place like ANU to help bridge the gap between how our society is, and how you want it to be.
Sham Sara, a former president of the ANU Students’ Association, ANU Council member, and political campaigner, has made his mark as a postgraduate student in London.
He won the Peter Self Prize for Best Academic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, named after the late scholar who taught there until he joined the ANU in 1982.
“My overarching aim for the year was to better understand how society works, and in doing so, take a step back from professional life and throw myself into the academic fields of public policy and comparative political economy,” he explains.
“I felt privileged to have had a whole year to think and to learn and was already delighted by the extent of my growth through that process, including the development of my own politics.
“Learning that, in addition, I'd won the prize was an added bonus.”
His Masters built on his ANU political science major and his thesis focused on the global income inequality phenomenon from an Australian perspective.
“I found that the balance of power between organised labour (unions) and organised business in Australia is less skewed toward organised business in comparison with other Anglo-Saxon countries, especially the dominance of corporations in the US.
“I looked at shifts in industrial relations policy since the 1980s and revealed that this 'less skewed dynamic' produced policy outcomes that served to protect against US-style income inequality at the top in the Australian context.”
At ANU, Sham practiced student politics, helped create the annual ANU Arts Revenue, and joined the Australian National Internships Program’s Washington DC placement in the US Congress 2010.
“I chose the ANU because it offered the best platform for the academic pursuit of political science in Australia, with internationally renowned scholars, an unmatched research output, and the fact that Canberra is the heart of Australia's political decision-making,” Sham says.
“I recall our lecturers emailing us about internship opportunities to complement our classroom learning with raw practical experience at the highest levels of politics at Australian Parliament House.
“You just can't get that anywhere else in Australia.”
Parliament provided many fond memories for Sham, including 13 February 2008 when Sham was in his second year at ANU.
“A group of ANU students and I drove to parliament and stood on the lawns with tens of thousands of Australians of all backgrounds to listen to the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd deliver the Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples,” he says.
“I often reflect on the optimism felt for Australia on that day.”
Upon graduating, Sham went from the lawns of Romaldo Giurgola’s masterpiece to within its corridors as an adviser and later senior political campaigner for the Rudd-Gillard governments.
After politics, he worked as the advocacy manager for education not-for-profit, Teach For Australia, before deciding to do postgraduate study.
He has two pieces of advice for people considering studying at our national university.
“There's as much to learn outside the classroom as there is within,” he says.
“So get involved in internships, clubs and societies, academic exchanges.
“My second tip is think seriously about using the privilege of getting to study at a place like ANU to help bridge the gap between how our society is, and how you want it to be.”