I checked my mailbox on one cold evening to find a very interesting letter sent to me by Professor John Dewar, the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University (LTU). It’s not an everyday occasion, for sure, that a Vice-Chancellor sent you a letter. It could be either you did not do your school’s duty or you did your duty, probably, astonishingly. To my surprise, I found later that the letter was about Golden Key, something I have heard from Deny previously, the President of Indonesian Students Association in LTU (now ex.)
Golden Key (GK) International Honour Society, formerly known as Golden Key National Honor Society, is the world’s largest, non-profit, collegiate honor society which recognizes academic achievement among college and university students in all disciplines. Its membership is by invitation only; comprising those who are at the top 15% of college or university. It addresses three basic pillars of academics, leadership, and service. Its members are then expected to strengthen their personal and professional developments based on these three principles.
Academics focuses on how its members, acting as scholars, enjoy academic challenges and believe in the power of knowledge, used to transform lives and change situations for the better. Up to now, GK has recognized more than 12 million undergraduate and graduate students for their intellectual achievements. The Society also has awarded around $10 million in scholarships and awards to its members in all fields of study.
In addition, Leadership provides its members opportunity to reach out, make plan, and change lives by listening and speaking to others, by leading and following people. People with similar purpose and interests may meet and share opportunities while developing leadership skills.
The Service pillar hopes for a better place in the world by providing opportunities for its members to serve and give to the communities in the country while, most importantly, to step out, stand out, inspire others; make an impact. Together, all members can make a difference in their communities all over the world.
After finding more information about GK, I decided to come to receive the award recognition. Prior to this, however, I had to register myself to the GK website. Even though GK asked for registration fee, it was only paid once and the membership will be forever. Considering that the award itself provides a lifetime opportunity, I strongly believe it is something worth doing.
I just finished tutoring an Indonesian class on a gloomy Wednesday evening when Manik, my wife, called that she just arrived at the University. To have her accompaniment in this award recognition was surely encouraging. After having our early dinner, we prepared to go to Western Lecturer Theatre (WLT) where the event was held. When we entered the building, there were already lots of people busy lining up. Some of them were having some refreshments while others were taking pictures. I lined up to get myself registered to find my seat number was #111. Afterwards, we enjoyed the refreshments that Manik grabbed. I accidentally met Codey, one of my bright students learning Indonesian this semester and we talked a bit about the event. He was with his friend preparing the refreshments catered from the bar he’s working. I also met Dinitri, one of the finalists of the 3-minute thesis competition we joined earlier. Not a surprise, though, as I knew she performed extremely well during the competition and got the second place.
We then entered the big hall where hundreds of people were already inside. I went to the middle area where the awardees were seated and found my seat number somewhere around the top. The guests were seated either on the left or right of the hall. It began right on time – something I always like – that Steven Burch, the President of GK in LTU Chapter presented his warm welcome and congratulation to all newly recognized members. Following this was the presentation of Honorary Members of the Chapter. Professor Keith Nugent, as the new Honorary Member, addressed the importance of GK in the world and how LTU responds to it. With the five key research areas – securing food, water and the environment, sport, exercise and rehabilitation, understanding disease, building healthy communities, and population movement and human security – the institution welcomes the young scholars in the GK to participate and contribute more in the areas based on individual’s interest.
Ms. Susanna Chan, as the Society Representative from the GK Headquarter in the US, continued to welcome the new members, not only in LTU or Asia Pacific region, but also the world. She encouraged the new members by giving many examples of success stories. She kept motivating us to fully optimize our potentials in the global world in the areas GK focuses on as there are many opportunities provided – events, conferences, scholarships, forums, volunteering works, etc. – all that can make one contribute to the society to the fullest. While trying to participate in the world scale, she also reminded that we still need to effectively contribute our best to our surroundings near us.
Her speech ended and now it’s the time for the award recognition. Each one of the awardee came forward to receive the award, in the form of certificate, given by Ms. Chan. It was also an opportunity to have our photos taken while receiving the award. I saw many unfamiliar faces. I tried to look at the list to find friends I know. I came across to several names which I know quite well. And they are Indonesian, too! It’s surely a great pride to know there are some Indonesian fellows in this award recognition. Among those are Yoga, a brother I used to play badminton with earlier; Melissa, a clever yet organized young fellow I worked with in the Indonesian Students’ Association; and Enny, a smiling, motivated lady from the eastern part of Indonesia. Yoga and Enny are taking Master’s and Melissa just finished her Bachelor’s. I tried to look for them and I only saw Enny sitting a few rows in front of me. I saw she was wearing traditional clothes of Kupang, if I am not mistaken, and she looked gorgeous. I could not see the other two.
As I got number 111, I had to wait for my turn to receive the award. A good thing to know is that GK starts to give the award to PhD students from this year and LTU was the first among 400 Chapters around the globe doing this. When we were asked of how many PhD students among hundreds of awardees in the hall, I saw less than 15 people, including me, who raised their hands. Pretty encouraging! With soft background music, all cheered and clapped their hands – every 15 in a row, though – to commemorate the ceremony process more solemnly. My turn came and I stood in line, waiting to be called.
Then, I heard my name called, /meid/ /heri/ /santousa/. I just smiled; I knew the first part of my name would likely be mispronounced, as it happened several times with my foreigner counterparts who do not know about this particular Balinese name. They normally said the “made” part as /meid/ rather than /made/. Fortunately, I don’t have the letter “I” (indicating a ‘male’ Balinese) in front of my name. Say, for example, my friend’s name is “I Made Andi Arsana.” As he admitted, many of his friends call him /ai/ /meid/ /andi/ /arsana/. Not to mention, when others addressed him in emails as ‘himself’ – as in “Dear I, ….” Interesting, isn’t it? Apart from this, Bli Andi, as I call him, is one of great Balinese brothers I fortunately know for he always shares positive encouragements through his words and experiences.
After my name was called, I moved forward and shook Ms. Chan’s hands. She smiled and congratulated me warmly. We faced the audience and the photographer took our photos. I walked back to my seat. As you can see below, Manik, ready with her iPod, has recorded the recognition process.
I also met Xuan, a good Vietnamese friend who is doing his Master’s at the moment. He also received the award. I can see he deserves this because of his hard work during the semesters. After all new members have received the award; Steven congratulated all members and asked for active participation and contribution in every interesting event in the Chapter. The LTU Chapter has been recognized as one of the best in the region, that it received two awards previously. First is La Trobe Golden Key’ Homework Club. This has been awarded as the “Best Community Service Event” in the Asia Pacific region. The Homework Club has also provided the benchmark for rollout around the region. Second, LTU was given the award for “Best Media Coverage” during the 2012 Asia Pacific Conference for its effort to donate a large number of books from the La Trobe University community to the National Library of Vietnam on October 20, 2011.
I found these two models can be used, as a start, in the Indonesian context. While Malaysia has already been in GK, as far as my concern, there is no other institution in the South-East Asia countries, including Indonesia, join the GK. As I am from one institution in Indonesia, I can see this is quite possible to do. When I see the requirements to start a new Chapter, it is achievable. I can also directly see opportunities to have several collaborations among Chapters in Australia and Indonesia, or other parts of the world. Activities, such as homework club, tutoring club, book donation are quite feasible. To add, scholarship offers or conferences events and grants are always wide open.
This award is indeed a personal achievement. Therefore, I am grateful for all supports of my friends, colleagues, and supervisors. I am also thankful for all prayers my family always sends me. I am indebted to Manik, for her accompaniment that day, and Rachela, my little girl, who is very understanding. As good as it is for my personal development, a wider societal impact will be more important. I believe this is only a beginning of many dreams and ideas to achieve in the future – those that will give positive influential benefits to all aspects of life, personally and professionally.
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