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Outstanding alumnus and diversity champion inspires at CQUni Melbourne grad

Published:10 December 2019

Sean O'Donnell is the 2020 CQUniversity Outstanding Alumnus of the Year

He’s the CQUniversity Outstanding Alumnus of the Year for 2020, and experienced business executive Sean O’Donnell says it’s his commitment to inclusion that has driven his success.

The message meant a lot to the diverse crowd gathered for CQUniversity Melbourne Graduation on Monday 9 December 2019, where Mr O’Donnell received his award from Chancellor John Abbott, and delivered an inspiring guest speech.

A Global Markets Executive at IBM, Mr O’Donnell completed his Master of Business Administration with CQUniversity in 1996, and explained that supporting workforce diversity had shaped his career.

Mr O’Donnell described a corporate leadership role in Melbourne, overseeing a team of 250, where only two of his 12 direct reports were women.

“Most of the people working there were fat middle-aged white men - like me!” he said.

“Yet to succeed we needed to be able to engage effectively with the future of Melbourne… the community was changing rapidly, and we were not well positioned to deal with either the threat or the opportunity.”

Mr O’Donnell restructured the team with a focus on increasing diversity and developing genuine Asian engagement, and explained that the diverse skills of his new team opened fresh business partnerships and revenues.

“Diversity is the outcome of inclusion and all of us can do something about inclusion,” Mr O’Donnell challenged graduates.

“There is a strong moral reason to be inclusive, but I’ve learned that sometimes self-interest trumps morality – and you are more likely to succeed in your endeavours if you are inclusive, too.”

Mr O’Donnell is also an ambassador for Melbourne City Mission’s Sleep @ the ‘G fundraising event, which CQUniversity Melbourne participates in annually.

He praised CQUni for its commitment to inclusion and engagement, and said graduates were “ready to be outstanding leaders” in their chosen fields.

Mr O’Donnell was part of a huge day for CQUniversity Melbourne, with 764 graduates crossing the stage across two big ceremonies at Crown Palladium.

Associate Vice-Chancellor (Victoria) Lara Carton said the day showcased changemakers who were transforming their worlds – from alumni and community partners, and from the graduate cohort.

“Our attendees also heard from Jim Mullan, who’s an international leader in social enterprise development, and who works alongside CQUni’s social innovation team as CEO of SecondBite,” she said.

“Jim really challenged the students to embrace the pace of change in our world, and to be the ones to shape where it goes.”

“It was also a thrill to see Master of IT graduate Rohit Sudhakaran accept the AVC Victoria Region Medal, for his leadership as a Social Innovation Ambassador, and as a passionate advocate for growing community amongst our diverse student cohort.”

The Outstanding Alumnus of the Year is one of four annual CQUni Alumni Awards. Remaining Alumni Award winners will be announced in early 2020.