Monash Business School’s top students recognised at 2023 Dean's Student Excellence Awards

2023 Future Global Leaders Riya Maben and Sharar Kader.

2023 Future Global Leaders Riya Maben and Sharar Kader.

24 May 2023

Riya Maben and Sharar Kader share a mutual passion for the planet and a desire to improve the health and happiness of the animals living on it.

And, after being announced as Monash Business School’s 2023 Future Global Leaders at May’s Dean's Student Excellence Awards ceremony, they have something else in common.

The prestigious accolade is the premier category in the annual awards, which recognise and celebrate students who have achieved outstanding success during the previous academic year.

Helping NGOs take financial control

Growing up in Mumbai, Ms Maben saw firsthand the terrible impact rampant waste can have on the local environment.

Without a proper disposal system, discarded food was piling up, attracting stray animals and causing disease outbreaks.

Ms Maben, who is a Masters in Banking and Finance graduate, decided to take action, collaborating closely with animal welfare organisations to spearhead a composting program to help address the problem.

“I’ve always been an animal lover, and as a mother to five cats I adopted as strays, it broke my heart to see strays struggling to find food and clean water,” she said.

Ms Maben began volunteering at the shelters, collecting leftover food from nearby tenants to feed the starving strays.

But she quickly realised the financial challenges these organisations faced threatened this vital work.

Seizing the opportunity to make a lasting impact, she drew on her financial expertise to draft funding applications and incorporate technology to streamline the organisation’s financial management.

“We also managed to increase the number of volunteers, which was excellent,” she said.

2023 Future Global Leader Riya Maben.

2023 Future Global Leader Riya Maben.

Now working in asset management, her commitment to driving social impact remains as strong as ever.

“Financial management is a crucial skill but it’s not always accessible to everyone,” she said..

“I volunteer at the Chartered Financial Analyst Society in Melbourne, where we aim to raise awareness and support women in their journey towards working in investment management.”

Ms Maben described her Future Global Leaders accolade as “the cherry on top”.

“This recognition will allow me to share my story with a wider audience and hopefully inspire others to take small steps to spread kindness and make life better for the people around them,” she said.

Championing biodiversity in Cambodia

Tackling poverty and protecting threatened ecosystems are not issues you might automatically associate with the world of finance.

However, Sharar Kader - a Bachelor of Commerce Honours graduate specialising in Economics - saw an opportunity to address these twin challenges in his research thesis examining the link between poverty alleviation and biodiversity loss in developing countries.

“Wildlife hunting is a lead driver of biodiversity loss in Cambodia while being an important source of nutrition and income for rural households,” he said.

“My research found that if we can compensate households for reductions in income caused by reduced rainfall, they will not need to hunt wildlife as a coping mechanism.”

2023 Future Global Leader Sharar Kader.

2023 Future Global Leader Sharar Kader.

Mr Kader is now building on this work to develop innovative financial solutions to combat the crisis.

Partnering closely with the Zoological Society of London, he is pioneering a cash transfer and insurance pilot initiative to tackle wildlife hunting near Cambodian National Parks.

“Our goal is to reduce the need for financially vulnerable households living around highly biodiverse areas to rely on hunted wildlife as sources of nutrition and income,” Mr Kader said.

His work has caught the attention of the Asian Development Bank, a major funding body, and will also be submitted for funding in the forthcoming round of the Darwin Program, funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

If successful, the pilot program will be implemented in 2024.

Mr Kader said winning the award has motivated him to continue working in this space.

“My supervisor, Paulo Santos, has been great in supporting me through this project and receiving recognition for our work is very encouraging in our path to winning funding for a pilot and publishing our work,” he said.

Celebrating all our star student performers

The 2023 Dean’s Student Excellence Awards also recognise our top Undergraduate and Postgraduate course award recipients, students achieving excellence in their individual units; the Dean’s Honours and the Dean’s Commendations and the Mollie Holman Medal for outstanding doctoral and research master’s thesis excellence.

More than 950 students were recognised at the awards.

View the full list of course awards and their sponsors

View program