Meet Boba and Laura! HPI In Focus, Critical thinking projects outreach

11 Nov 2022

HPI in focus - Laura Pham Critical Thinking Project 

Animals are a big part of my life. Bobbito has been with me since I started my degree, and I just bought a goose, chickens, and quails. Geese are supposed to guard chickens, but mine seems to be scared of everything.

In a different life I could have done Veterinary Science, but I did a Bachelor of Information Technology.

I am currently the Program Coordinator for the Critical Thinking Project, the brainchild of HPIs philosophy discipline.

My interest in philosophy grew in high school. My school was one of the first high schools to adopt the philosophy curriculum and I volunteered for the Critical Thinking Project and completed 30 compulsory hours. This was my first exposure to university and to the project. Philosophy helped developed my awareness of bias and keeps me questioning.

Once at UQ, I did philosophy electives during my degree, and have worked in EAIT, HABS, HASS and ITaLI.

No two days are the same. There’s always something new in this role. Right now, I work with external stakeholders to secure contracts and run programs, I organize the many events throughout the year, and I manage the website.

I am very excited about our new podcast, Descartes Before the Horse, that Dr Luke Zaphir and Dr Liam Miller are running. It is available through Spotify.

My favourite event was in 2019 when Deb Brown asked me organise a seminar in early modern philosophy. It was my first event ever, and I went in not knowing anything and had to learn it all very quickly – but it went well! I got to meet academics from all over the world.

Dr Peter Ellerton has run the Philosothon – a weekend competition with 120 students. It’s so rewarding to see their young minds engage in civil debate.

The reason I do this job is because of the opportunities it creates for people to get into education from a range of backgrounds.

In July we ran an engagement day with on campus workshops with [250] students and we were able to offer a free day of professional development for teachers with the generous support of staff from faculties from across the University. Their generosity blew me away. It gave these students their first exposure to university.

I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute to a SPOC (Small Private Online Course) for the Faculty of Medicine. It feels surreal that I am involved in a programme that 480 medical students will need to do.

At the moment it is just me – but we have so much work there could be 4 of me to keep it all going!

We work closely with schools. What’s most rewarding for me is seeing high school students come to university and opening up their minds to the possibilities of coming here to study. For many of the schools University is seen as not a viable option. It offers students perspective on life.

What keeps me going? When I see it ‘click’ for teachers, when they realize what it means to question. And seeing students experience campus for the first time. I realize how important it is for them to become integrated early on into University life. Since 2018 I’ve been able to see students involved in our programs from high school now come to university.

For me, before being involved in the Critical Thinking Project, I thought I questioned everything and I realized that not everyone does. I am often surprised at people’s lack of media literacy.

At the end of the day the project is about autonomy. If you absorb everything people say to you are not as autonomous as you think you are.

Where to next? Who knows! I really enjoy the work I am doing now. I haven’t closed the door to a PhD as something I can do in the future. I am flexible right now, and keen to be anywhere that lets me contribute to the accessibility of students to receive an education, to push those social and economic barriers to education.