GUCC was conceived by Tannaz Daver and Sean McAuley, both of whom are university counsellors in schools in Singapore. However, it became a reality because of the support and dedication of a team of like-minded colleagues in Singapore.
We embarked on this project as a way of giving back. We have a supportive and close group of colleagues here in Singapore that has grown and developed over many years, giving us the opportunity to learn from each other. We realise there is no straightforward, structured training readily available and much is learnt on the job. Recognising this, and that many of our colleagues are sole practitioners in schools, without access to professional development or a supportive network provided the impetus to the organising team.
GUCC is our way of taking this supportive network and directed training one step further. Understanding the immense value gained by sharing with other practitioners, our focus is to organise a programme that will enable participants to go back to their schools with new colleagues to reach out to, practical ideas they can use immediately and more knowledge to share with their school communities. Most of us are not in situations where we need to know the ins and outs of every university in any one country, but we need to know a little bit about many systems and we need to have the tools to learn more as needed. The programme is therefore designed with this in mind.
A second focus was to give us and our colleagues the opportunity to develop and lead sessions, thus providing another professional development opportunity.
We are very pleased that this will progress further in GUCC 2016, with many sessions being proposed, planned and led by colleagues from the wider region.
Recognising that many of us are in schools with limited resources, we endeavoured to keep costs very low; all session leaders donated their time. University representatives paid their own expenses and our own schools gave us time off as needed. The dates were chosen to be at a time that is more convenient for school-based counsellors and that coincide with school holidays, which enable the use of school facilities. SJI International sponsored the facilities and resources. A hotel near the school gave us an attractive rate and UWCSEA-Dover donated buses to and from the hotel. Parents from the SJI International community sponsored the logo design, the workshop programme and the closing dinner.
We were very pleasantly surprised by the positive response we got from all stakeholders. The university representatives understood our mission and were excited to be a part of it. They worked with us on the sessions they were involved in, participated fully through the two days and were very generous with the information that they shared and in the way they collaborated with everyone. The representatives know our region and our students well and their willingness to go beyond the “party line” was much appreciated and sparked lively debate.