The Griffith Business School community came together to farewell this year’s graduating cohort of Student Leaders at a bittersweet ceremony this month.

Friends, family, alumni, staff and industry partners gathered at the University’s Gold Coast campus to pay tribute to the students departing the Griffith Business School Student Leadership Program (GBSSLP) while welcoming several new faces to serve as the school’s most remarkable ambassadors.

The incoming cohort has certainly had an incredible example set for them; in her speech acknowledging the graduates’ community-focused efforts, Student Development Coordinator Joanne Fairclough revealed the group had broken the existing record for university service and community engagement.

“The amount of hours that these guys gave back is a testament to their dedication to making this world a better place,” Mrs Fairclough said.

“This graduating class for 2018 gave back a total of 1357 hours to the university and 1998 hours of community engagement — over 3355 volunteer hours helping others.”

The theme of community permeated the evening’s reflections, with Pro Vice Chancellor (Business) Professor David Grant noting its fundamental role in both the Student Leadership Program and leadership more broadly.

“The Student Leadership Program is about building community,” Professor Grant said. “That, for me, is what leadership is actually about; it’s really important to me.

“I think that you, as a group, are about building community, making your mark, as socially responsible, globally aware leaders that reflect the Business School values.”

“The very simple thing about leadership practice is it comprises two essential things: it’s what you say, and what you do,” he continued.

“What you say matters — it inspires people, it moves people — but it also requires deeds; it requires action. It requires you to do things that make a difference.

“That’s, essentially, what building community is about — and, therefore, what leadership is about.”

Professor Grant reflected on the growth of the GBSSLP since its inception seven years ago to its status as a “highly regarded” initiative both inside and outside the University.

“The GBSSLP is a well-known program,” Professor Grant explained. “It’s become an exemplar for other institutions to follow. That’s a compliment to the program, and to you.”

He further thanked the Student Leaders for their service: “You’ve been fantastic ambassadors for this program and also for the Business School,” he said.

“You’re tremendous advocates for the Business School, and we’re very, very proud of you. We are immensely proud of what you’ve achieved.”

Alongside the fundamental formalities, the evening was also a buoyant, occasionally bleary-eyed celebration of the experiences and connections the graduating group have formed over their time in the program.

During the event, the audience heard from international alumni (via video), valedictorians Brooke Gehrke and Azaria Bell, and watched a recap of the adventures shared and lessons learnt by the leaders on a trip to India.

GBSSLP Class of 2015 alumnus Jennie Toonen provided wisdom and wit about the importance of networking and maintaining relationships in a thoroughly entertaining speech that followed her journey from uncertain non-school-leaver re-entering tertiary education at the age of 31 to a role as a consultant for France-based market research firm Ipsos.

Hearing Ms Toonen’s story, a piece of advice offered by Mrs Fairclough earlier in the evening stands out as particularly pertinent.

“When a door closes, open it again. It’s a door; it’s what it does,” she said.

“Life will close doors on you, but do not be afraid to open them back up again. And if the door isn’t an option, there’s always a window. Open it and breathe in the fresh air.”

Find out more about the Griffith Business School Student Leadership Program at its website.