Monash Business School honours student changemakers at 2024 Dean's Student Excellence Awards

June 6 2024

Aishath Shira, Jonathan Robberts and Liam Dillon.

Aishath Shira, Jonathan Robberts and Liam Dillon.

Aishath Shira, Liam Dillon, and Jonathan Robberts aren't satisfied with simply learning about critical issues – they're committed to finding solutions.

From fighting ocean pollution to analysing the billions lost to climate disasters and fostering stronger communities, these three Monash Business School graduates are using their skills to make a positive impact.

The trio received major gongs at this year's Dean's Student Excellence Awards, which recognise and celebrate students who have achieved outstanding success during the previous academic year.

More than 1030 students have been recognised, including our top performers in Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses, students who excel in individual units, and the Dean’s Honours and Dean’s Commendations.

Combating plastic pollution

For Aishath Shira, running a small business in paradise is about more than just soaking up the sunshine – it’s about using commerce as a force for good.

After witnessing the growing menace of plastic pollution marring the pristine beaches of her beloved island home in the Maldives, Ms Shira decided to take action.

“My father opened a guest house in 2014, and since then, after snorkeling trips, he and his employees would often have to collect plastic bags and other single-use plastics from the ocean,” she said.

“My family and I decided to make reusable tote bags for tourists at the guesthouse, and this helped me realise the positive environmental impact we could have on the island’s sustainability.”

While pursuing her Bachelor of Business and Commerce at Monash Malaysia, Ms Shira decided to amplify her impact, teaming up with her twin sister to launch a second tote business catering to eco-conscious university students.

“We provide stylish, customisable, and eco-friendly tote bags at an affordable price, to help reduce plastic waste,” she said.

Ms Shira shared the insights and experiences she had gained from her entrepreneurial efforts to inspire her classmates during her capstone unit, Integrative Business Practices.

“This provided the students with real-life experience in starting a business and selling products,” she said.

This commitment to sustainability and willingness to empower others has earned Ms Shira the prestigious 2024 Future Global Leader Undergraduate Award.

“Winning this award is a huge honour, and it’s attributed to my mum and dad, who inspired my journey towards a cleaner and sustainable future,” she said.

With her tote business thriving, ongoing research into plastic pollution in the Maldives, and a Master’s in Sustainable Development Management in progress, she is already well on her way to making a lasting difference.

Counting the cost

Monash Business School graduate Liam Dillon is a firm believer that environmental and economic wellbeing can go hand-in-hand.

“I’ve always been interested in the intersection between climate change and economics, and how we can make sustainable decisions that protect the environment while also maintaining standards of living for Australians,” he said.

As a Master of Economics student, his research quantified the cost of natural disasters in Australia between 1970 and 2022.

“The damages can soar into the billions, with an average annualised cost nearing $4 billion,” he said.

But the cost is not only financial; there are profound impacts on mental health and social welfare.

“Better planning for these events can hopefully mitigate some of those outcomes,” he said.

While still studying, Mr Dillon worked as an intern at one of Australia’s leading think tanks, the Grattan Institute.

There, he contributed to analysis to promote reform of the Federal Government’s fuel tax credit system.

“We found it was an outdated policy tool primarily benefiting heavy emitters and distorting incentives away from more environmentally conscious fuel sources like battery-powered fleets or hydrogen-powered vehicles,” he said.

Now an economist for the Community for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), he remains steadfast in his commitment to sustainable economic prosperity.

“We provide economic research and liaise with chief executives, politicians and thought leaders to address areas of national and global economic significance,” he said.

His most recent report for CEDA explored how Australia can leverage its natural resources to seize emerging opportunities in the global green economy.

Mr Dillon said being named our 2024 Future Global Leader Postgraduate Award recipient was “incredibly humbling”.

“It invigorates me to continue leveraging the skills I gained at Monash to find solutions to some of Australia and the world’s most pressing economic issues,” he said.

Strengthening student voice

The pursuit of knowledge can be a lonely endeavour, but PhD candidate Jonathan Robberts refused to let isolation define the research experience for himself or his fellow students.

“I recognised quite early on that our community was not always well connected socially as a community,” he said.

“I have made lifelong friends and professional connections throughout my PhD, and I wanted to make sure everyone in our cohort had access to the same opportunities.”

Drawing on his doctoral research into organisational change and professional identity, Mr Robberts believed he could foster a stronger sense of belonging.

His solution? The HDR Student Representative Network - a cross-disciplinary forum to serve as a launchpad for community building.

“What we do relies on collaboration, so the sooner our students feel like they’re part of a wider community, the greater their ability to make a real impact,” he said.

His efforts to improve the student experience didn’t stop there.

As a tireless advocate on the Business School's Research Degrees Committee and Dean’s Student Forum, Mr Robberts worked to ensure the voices of graduate researchers were heard.

His dedication to fostering a thriving community for his fellow graduate researchers has earned Mr Robberts the 2024 Dean's Equity, Diversity and Social Inclusion Award.

“Winning this award has made me feel incredibly proud of the HDR Representative Network for their commitment to representing our cohort to advance positive change,” he said.

“As I come to the end of my PhD and time at Monash University, I am excited to see how the network evolves in the coming years.”

Shining a light on academic brilliance

The 2024 Dean's Student Excellence Awards recognise academic success across all levels.

View the full list of course awards and their sponsors

View the program