As President of The University of New South Wales Optometry Student Society, Claudia Jiang’s role is to foster collaboration among a cohort of future optometrists who are set to drive change.
Being appointed President of the UNSW Optometry Student Society 2020 is both an honour and a huge responsibility. It embodies being the voice for future optometrists, as we strive towards common goals by cooperating with the student body, educational staff and the wider optometry community.
As President, I am the point of communication between all groups – the student body, educational staff and the wider optometry community
When I was first asked to take on this role, I reflected on the grace and ambition of our previous President and executive team. I questioned whether I had the capabilities to fill their shoes and the potential impact of my decisions. However, with the support of a passionate and driven team, I accepted the offer and began my new role with enthusiasm and determination.
The role has given me a platform to project my voice in the real world, to be recognised for my efforts, and given opportunities to meet influential leaders within the optometry community. None of this would have been attainable otherwise. However, it is not all glitz and glamour – in reality, it’s a life of constant emailing, planning, budgeting and a never ending ‘to do list’ in the back of my mind. Added to this has been the need to complete my final year of my degree, which has been both challenging and time consuming, with timetable changes every week. On the upside, all of this has pushed me to become more time efficient so that I can balance university, the society, work and my personal life.
As President I am the point of communication between all groups – the student body, educational staff and the wider optometry community. Understanding the needs and wants of each is a deliberated process that is vital to accomplishing common goals.
Our team organises events such as an annual cruise, annual Eyeball, BBQs, hoodies, various educational nights and graduate recruitment opportunities. This requires months of meticulous planning to secure funds, venues, catering, and decorations.
One of my responsibilities in relation to this is to negotiate with optometry companies to determine how we can work together for the best interest of the students. This has enabled me to gain insight into unique organisational cultures and values, and to enhance longstanding relationships between them and our society.
Graduate recruitment is one of the big issues that racks the minds of final year optometry students from the first term – after all this is what determines our first few years of employment. The offers begin rolling in early in the year and my role is to be the gateway between recruiters and students. To negotiate ideal outcomes, students have to be adequately equipped with knowledge of the process, the pitfalls and all their options. They also need to understand the value of our new knowledge and efforts. All of this is achieved by arranging early career conferences, networking nights and discussions with organisations such as Young Optometrists Australia, Optometry Australia Early Career Optometrists etc.
Earlier this year I attended the Optometry Australia Student Leadership Program in Melbourne, which opened my eyes to what the future of optometry could look like, and how we can cohesively work towards it. This gathering of both current national and future leaders of optometry allowed us to share our ideas and experience, and foster exciting new relations.
The invaluable expertise learnt from this program also shaped the way I approach my role. I recognise the importance of creating a sustainable and collaborative student environment that extends beyond university, as the growth of optometry thrives on cooperation. We do this by delegating responsibilities to year representatives to build relations within and between cohorts, to facilitate peer connections, provide support and education.
Ultimately, the role of President is demanding yet extremely rewarding. I am enjoying the opportunity to foster a welcoming and collaborative environment which will unify the new generation of optometrists at the forefront of change.
Claudia Jiang is the 2020 optometry president at the University of New South Wales School of Optics and Vision Science.