Merjem Colan, one of our Assistant Project Managers in this year's Aspire program.

Select alumni of the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre’s Aspire leadership and governance program have returned in 2019 in newly created roles as Aspire Associate Project Managers (APMs) to assist in the delivery of the program for a new cohort of young Muslim women.

This new model will see the capacity building program devolved back to the Muslim community as alumni are trained to assume full responsibility for delivery of the Aspire program.   

Merjem Colan, one of the APMs, explains the importance of this new role and shares a 'day in the life of an APM'.

"Being a participant in a program is easy. Developing a program is a whole new challenge. I completed the Aspire program in 2017. When I took on this role as a staff member at SZCC, I knew the critical thing I wanted was to encourage an atmosphere of support and sisterhood among all participants.

It was hard work to get the details right while also keeping an eye on what we wanted to achieve in the longer term. We would arrive at the Cowen Centre well before each session to brief each other and attend to the myriad of small last minute details – we almost always remembered the tea, coffee and biscuits. We laughed a lot but still had to make sure we were professional and serious role models.

I knew each of the other APMs as friends, but working together helped me understand how teams are greater than the sum of their parts. Managing different and often strong personalities was a great learning experience.

The role of a project manager involves constant troubleshooting. We had to anticipate and fix unforeseen mishaps – food allergies, broken heaters, late presenters (and participants!).

We all felt so proud watching the graduates present their online governance resources to a sea of smiling faces at a graduation ceremony that we had organised. We have so many ideas for next year, when we get the chance to take the reins.

Now that we know how programs work from the inside, we can share vital knowledge with the Muslim community organisations in which we work and volunteer."

Merjem has been an office bearer in a number of Muslim community organisations. She completed her business degree in Australia and is now undertaking post-graduate studies in Turkey.

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