Cool in a crisis, students innovating to adapt to change

Published:16 April 2020

Rockhampton-based Change Champ Abeshek Nadarajah connects with other students via Zoom.

A team of CQUniversity students is getting creative in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, to ensure students across the country are staying healthy, happy and connected.

The five Change Champs usually help promote social innovation opportunities on their campuses, but CQUni’s shift to entirely online teaching means they’ve had to change their approach, too.

Now, they’re creating fun videos, a practical podcast, and virtual meet-ups to help keep CQUni’s 30,000 students feel positive despite the challenges.

Rockhampton Bachelor of Physiotherapy student Abeshek Nadarajah has been a Change Champ since January.

Previously a face-to-face student, Abeshek said the shift online has been challenging, but his Change Champ role has helped him adapt quickly.

“Just like everyone, students haven’t had much time to get used to the new situation, but setting up new online networks for students has helped me realise, we’re all facing the same challenges,” he said.

“So we’ve all got more in common than ever – we just need new ways to connect, and realise we’re not alone.”

CQUniversity has been a leader in online education for the past two decades, and transitioned all degree teaching online from the start of Term 1, on Monday 23 March.

While its national campuses are still open to provide student services like computer labs and libraries, most students are spending their days at home, and staying motivated can be a challenge.

The new podcast, Change Champ Chats, connects students with expert advice about how to manage study, finances, and health and wellbeing during the crisis.

The first episode sees hosts Minnie Brechin and Nagendra Kafley interview CQUni Education lecturer Dr Brendan Jacobs about resources for staying focused.

The Change Champs are also helping promote CQUni’s Eat-Chill-Sweat series, a virtual wellbeing classroom that connects students, and helps them stay healthy despite isolation.

Created by the Office of Social Innovation and the International Student Health Promotion team, three weekly virtual classes are presented by expert facilitators, and focus on good eating, staying fit, and practicing meditation.

Dozens of students have already joined in, and the classes will be offered over nine weeks until 5 June. Students can sign up here:

CQUniversity is Australia’s Changemaker University accredited by global social innovation network Ashoka U, and the COVID-19 crisis is proving its commitment to innovative action.

CQUniversity’s partnerships with social enterprises including SecondBite food rescue has also helped connect struggling students with support to get through self-isolation, job losses and more.

For more about Office of Social Innovation activities, visit