A cocktail event was organised by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) School of Accounting and Finance (SOAF) for its alumni in the Western Division, industry partners and current students enrolled in Postgraduate studies at Novotel Nadi on 19 April 2018.
The event was part of the School’s initiative to celebrate the University’s 50th Anniversary this year.
Dr Nacanieli Rika, Acting Head of School said that the evening was about meeting the western alumni, current students, industry partners as well as secondary school teachers and thanked the organisations which continue to employ USP graduates.
USP and more particularly, the School, Dr Rika added, has come a long way and has grown significantly in terms of the number of students and staff, its Postgraduate programmes and course delivery through online mode and lecture capture technology.
He encouraged USP alumni, who have not furthered their studies, to enroll in Postgraduate studies, emphasising on “what better time to start then now.”
USP, he said, has invested considerable amounts in technology like online teaching and learning and Lecture Capture, to bring the programmes to students who had difficulty in furthering their studies because they were outside Laucala Campus.
Dr Rika informed the guests that SOAF is one of the largest schools at USP.
Acting Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, Professor Arvind Patel said that it is always a pleasure to see the School’s former students again, after their graduation.
Professor Patel indicated that one of the purposes of the meet was to obtain feedback from SOAF’s partners, and especially the alumni, on what the employers want from current students.
He added that it is important to know about how the students are coping at the work places after they graduate from the University
Professor Patel said that such meetings should continue, in which the University can obtain concrete feedback from its alumni and see what students are taught is actually relevant to the workforce and helping the graduates.
He encouraged the alumni to also inform the University staff on some of the good things about the programmes, what are some of the things that need to be maintained, things that need to be changed and how it is going to be more helpful once students graduate.
Professor Patel highlighted that the University now places more emphasis on the kind of entrepreneurship skills each programme teaches.
“To this end, I think accountants are on the forefront, and there are a number of accounting graduates who are involved in entrepreneurship,” Professor Patel said.
One of the ideas put forward was to document SOAF alumni, who are now involved in entrepreneurship and record how they got involved in it, the type of business they are pursuing, their inspiration which drew them towards entrepreneurship and how their programme of study helped them engage in this activity.
Professor Patel noted that regional governments are encouraging people to find self-employment and talked about the Young Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) initiative by the Fijian Government, which was launched recently.
He urged members of the SOAF alumni network to stay in touch with each other, as well as the school, through social media.
Professor Patel is also an alumnus of the University and graduated in 1984.
Mr Rajeshwar Singh, USP Alumnus and President of the SOAF’s Advisory Committee shared his experiences as a fresh graduate from the University in 1991 and said that during his time, he felt that the textbooks and fourteen (14) weeks of coursework was everything but, he added that “the minute you walk out of that main gate, the world is very brutal.”
He told the alumni present that the attitude they have today is what the University has given them.
“University life was a different world altogether, and I am personally indebted to that. The way I have shaped myself, my thinking, attitude, work ethics and my learning actually came from the University,” he said.
He reminded the members of SOAF alumni network on what they could do to give back to the School and the University as a whole, in terms of sharing their experiences in upskilling the graduates.
“We need to start supporting our School and the University and together we can be very well connected,” Mr Singh reiterated.
He encouraged people in the workforce that rather than commenting that graduates are not ready, they could instead give them the opportunity to be ready, adding that “we need to create those opportunities for them through casual employment, internships and attachments.”
Mr Singh, who has spent almost thirty (30) years at the University, highlighted that being part of the Alumni network poses a lot of benefits and encouraged alumni to be part of the network.
Ms Maria Elaisa, a Commerce teacher and Careers Coordinator at Nadi Muslim College said that this is the first such event for her and acknowledged the SOAF for reaching out to secondary school teachers. She said that USP should do this often.
“We are fortunate to come this evening and see what the University has to offer and what they have for our society as a whole,” Ms Elaisa said.
She relayed how there is stigma related to tertiary studies in Accounting and how students perceive it to be a difficult area to pursue at the University level.
“But it is our role as careers teachers to encourage them to take up such subjects and I strongly recommend that USP continue to do this kind of outreach,” she added.
Ms Elaisa congratulated USP on its 50th Anniversary and urged the University to continue to provide easier accessibility to education to rural communities, especially smaller islands in Fiji, like Rabi and Rotuma.
Mr Amitesh Chand who is currently pursuing a Postgraduate in Professional Accounting said that the get-together was an important platform in bringing the current and former students together, especially those who are pursuing their Postgraduate studies.
Mr Chand added that it also provided an opportune time to have one on one discussions with the School’s staff and learn more about the Postgraduate programmes.
He said that getting a Bachelor’s degree is becoming common these days and said that graduates need to keep on upgrading themselves, adding that “if you want to get good education in the Pacific, USP is the way forward.”
Mr Chand graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting and Information Systems in 2010 and currently works for Mobil Oil, Australia.
Dr Pramila Devi, Lautoka Campus Director along with other staff of the Lautoka Campus were also part of the event.