Alumni Story – Shaun and Jennifer Star
Golden Key is proud of our alumni and the amazing impact they have in their communities across the globe. Shaun and Jennifer Star are distinguished GK alumni who met while studying at Macquarie University in Australia and are now based in Delhi, India.
Shaun Star is a lawyer at a top firm in India, but has also found the time to co-found and chair the Australia-India Youth Dialogue which enhances the partnerships between the youth of the two nations. Shaun also received a Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Award to go to India, was the top of his class in law school and won numerous awards and scholarships.
In 2008, Jennifer (Jen) started the non-government organisation Tara.Ed based in India. It aims to improve the quality of education in rural India by developing good teachers. Jen is also an elite athlete – representing Australia for 7 years. She was the NSW Young Australian of the Year in 2012 and last year, was named as one of Australia’s 100 most influential women and was a finalist in the NSW Women of the Year.
While as individuals their accomplishments both seem incredible, as a team they are truly unstoppable. Both Jen and Shaun were selected as one of only 75 worldwide Goldman Sachs Global Leaders, both won Golden Key scholarships and both have now studied at Oxford.
We had the chance to speak with these amazing alum:
Where did you grow up? Where do you currently live?
[Jen Star: JS] I grew up in a small country town near Bowral, NSW. Now I live in New Delhi (A city with a population that’s greater than Australia!)
[Shaun Star: SS] I grew up in Sydney and now live in New Delhi
What university did you go to? What did you study?
We both attended Macquarie University (that’s where we met).
[JS] I initially studied archaeology/ancient history, but retrained as a teacher in 2010 at the University of New England in 2010. I’ve been in the field of Education since then, studying a Masters in International Education at Oxford. I am currently doing my PhD through Deakin.
[SS] I studied law at Macquarie and did a BCL (Masters in Law) at Oxford in 2012.
When did you join Golden Key? For what reasons did you join?
[JS] I received an invite when I was studying archaeology at Macquarie…and just happened to be dating the Macquarie University Chapter President at the time…I didn’t have a choice NOT to join!
[SS] I was really involved in campus life at Macquarie University, and GK provided another opportunity for me to be involved, as I was elected Chapter President in 2008. It has provided me with so many opportunities since.
How has Golden Key influenced your career path?
[JS] I received the Golden Key Asia Pacific Community Service Award when my charity, ‘Tara.Ed’ was still in its infancy (at that stage, we only had one project in one school in India). The grant gave me financial freedom to work solely on Tara.Ed instead of having to balance a part time job alongside my other commitments. Such support at that stage of Tara.Ed’s evolution was integral to its growth and success today.
[SS] I was very involved with Golden Key at Macquarie University, and this allowed me to develop a wide range of skills (such as chairing a meeting), and connect with other young achievers the world over through the GK International Conference. I also received the GK Graduate scholar award which funded my postgraduate studies at Oxford University.
What are you doing now? What is your job title?
[JS] Founding Director of Tara.Ed, an international Education NGO that promotes sustainable, quality education in rural and remote parts of India and Bangladesh.
[SS] Foreign Qualified Legal Consultant at Amarchand Mangaldas Suresh A Shroff & Co –India’s biggest law firm. I am also Chair of the Australia-India Youth Dialogue (AIYD), a track two dialogue that brings young Indians and Australians together to develop strong people to people links and discuss issues that impact both nations.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
[Both] – Pack up our lives in Australia to move to India “for one year” (that was five years ago now…and we are still here).
What is your proudest achievement?
[JS] Finishing the first six year project with Tara.Ed. Seeing that the Tara.Ed model was a success and changing lives was pretty special!
[SS] The first AIYD Conference was held in Delhi and Mumbai in 2012 and was a great success. I had brought together and worked with a great group of people – the AIYD Steering Committee – to make it happen. The conference was ultimately the culmination of 18 months of planning and hard work. Four years later, it continues to go from strength to strength!
What song represents you?
[JS] ‘Most people I know think that I’m Crazy’ by Billy Thorpe
[SS] I don’t know…perhaps ‘Star Man’ by David Bowie!?
What activities and hobbies do you take part in?
[JS] I have done the sport of judo since I was a little girl and it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, I’ll always find a judo club to practice at.
[SS] Living in India, it is hard to go past cricket. On weekends, you’ll find me on one of Delhi’s many cricket pitches!
Do you have a defining moment/incident/day that stands out?
[Both] Are we allowed to say our wedding…or is that just tacky!?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?
[Both] Definitely Delhi! There is an energy about this city that you don’t get anywhere else. We love it!
What is a fun fact about you?
[Both] In a break to tradition, Jennifer asked Shaun to marry her…and two days after the wedding, we moved to India!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
JS – When Tara.Ed had completed it’s first project and was looking to expand, we hit a few hurdles. My mentor, Oscar Trimboli, asked me a very simple question: “what does success look like?” and it really threw me! I was so caught up in the small details that I had lost sight of where we were going. Everyone’s picture of success is different, and in order to achieve it, you have to know what it looks like. I have mentored many aspiring NGO start ups since, and this is always the first question I ask!
SS – A quote by Margaret Mead that I often revisit when searching for motivation is: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”