“Powerful combination of excellence and experience” McDonnell Academy and UQ alum welcomes students to the symposium

Brisbane, Australia aerial view
Brisbane, Australia aerial view

by Ashley Hammett, University of Queensland and Washington University in St. Louis alum


Ashley Hammett

G’day! I graduated from the Washington University School of Law in May 2016, where I had the good fortune of being a McDonnell Academy Scholar. I will be working as an Associate with Shearman & Sterling in New York City this Fall. It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Brisbane for the McDonnell International Scholars Academy Symposium.

I first started at University of Queensland in 2006, where I studied Law, French and International Relations. UQ has a superb reputation for research, and students are offered many opportunities to work with Professors of a high caliber in various fields of specialty. I had the good fortune of doing extensive research and writing for professors who specialize in issues facing the Aboriginal community in the criminal justice system, and human trafficking.

UQ also has a thriving student community, and I became involved with a number of university groups and societies, including Oxfam and ANTaR, a group that advocates for Aboriginal rights before government entities. I also benefitted from UQ’s terrific legal clinic program, where students work can help disadvantaged members of the community, such as those facing homelessness. This was a great way for students to give back to the community and learn about how law impacts society, while gaining valuable experience and forging important connections with Brisbane’s legal fraternity.

It is this powerful combination of excellence in academia and experience with practical issues facing the community, something shared by Washington University and the Academy’s many other university partners, which will make this Symposium so special for the participants. This dual approach of academia and clinical programs to address global issues will provide participants with real life examples of how scholars, academics and practitioners alike can make great strides in transnational issues in health, energy and sustainability. I am very excited to hear from such highly esteemed professionals and academics this week.

There is also plenty to explore in Brisbane after the Symposium events. The Convention Centre is located right in the middle of South Bank – Brisbane’s cultural hub. Here you will find the wonderful (and free!) Gallery of Modern Art (www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/), which features a great selection of art, cinémathèque, and an entertainment space for children. The State Library is also close by, (www.slq.qld.gov.au/) for those who need a relaxing space overlooking the river to work. In front of these buildings is a riverfront promenade and behind is Grey Street and Fish Lane, each with many restaurants, cafes and bars to entertain you.

A handful of attractions are just a short CityCat ferry ride away: New Farm Park (www.newfarmpark.com.au/) and the Brisbane City botanical gardens (www.visitbrisbane.com.au/the-city/things-to-do/arts-and-entertainment/heritage-and-architecture/city-botanic-gardens?sc_lang=en-au). The suburb of New Farm is full of wonderful cafes and restaurants, particularly around the James Street area (http://www.jamesst.com.au/james-st-market/). You can also cross the bridge from South Bank into the city, where there is a great fruit and vegetable market every Wednesday night, and many shops and restaurants.

For those with a car, the Mt Cootha botanical gardens and mountain top café are well worth the short trip (https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/parks-venues/parks/brisbane-botanic-gardens-mount-coot-tha). You can also park and hike through bushland, for an inner-city exposure to Australian fauna and flora. And of course, if you want to get your photo taken with a koala, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has you sorted (www.koala.net/).

UQ itself is a beautiful university, with historic limestone buildings as well as an impressive array of high-tech new buildings. For those who want to stretch their legs at UQ, there is a wonderful river walk, playing fields and a swimming pool on the north end of campus, and a beautiful lake area on the south end. There are many excellent cafes and restaurants, including Merlos, Pizza Caffe, and Wordsmiths, as well as the Red Room.

I am incredibly excited to be back at UQ, and to be able to share this special place with all those attending the Symposium. I hope that your time offers many opportunities to learn, discuss complex ideas, connect with inspiring people from all over the world, and enjoy a bit of Queensland sunshine!

Read more of our McDonnell Scholar perspectives