USP Alumni Network

In 2012, Mukesh Prasad completed his PhD in Social Economics from the University of Southern Queensland. After the graduation ceremony, he slipped a little note into his supervisor’s hand. The note read “I shall not remain insignificant”.

Thanks to an Australian Government bursary, his graduation had come two years earlier than planned, which was to complete a PhD by the age of 45 years. However, the quest to become significant had started many years ago. As Mukesh explained, he was born almost blind and cannot remember what the world looked like until complex eye surgeries restored his sight when he was eight years old. “The surgeries restored my vision but my corrective “coke bottle” glasses presented a challenge,” Mukesh recalled. “Sadly, many people who could make a difference in my life turned their backs on me because they didn’t want to have anything to do with the boy who couldn’t see!”

The irony was not lost on Mukesh and it took years - and the unwavering support of many beautiful people, as he described them - to realise that he had got it all wrong. Mukesh was brutally honest about the awareness: “it was like finding out that fire burns my finger when I understood the limitations were theirs and not mine”.

There was no turning back after this realisation. Mukesh secured one of only three public service scholarships on offer andcompleted his Bachelor of Arts in English and History from USP in 1991. The choice of majors was determined by his desire tobecome a teacher and make a difference in the lives of physically and mentally disadvantaged students; something that he could notget himself. In a strange twist of fate, the dream came true when he was posted to his former high school.

In 1994, Mukesh returned to USP on a Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship to pursue postgraduate studies. He graduated with aMaster of Arts in 1995 and became the first Development Studies student to complete his thesis in “record time”. The choice ofmajors, this time around, was motivated by a desire to make a difference in the wider world and Mukesh ended up working for a major foreign mission in Suva.

“The diplomatic experience was surreal,” Mukesh explained, “because it was all about power and strategic interests. It gave me a glimpse of human nature at its best – and worst”.

Mukesh migrated to Australia in 2000 and now works as the Policy and Research Manager for a peak industry body. He provides expert policy advice, including director training to over 1,000 community sporting, surf life saving, returned services leagues and cultural and ethnic clubs.

“The best part of my job is that I’m still making a difference,” Mukesh said. “Community clubs are grassroots organisations and my work impacts the lives of millions of people who visit these venues to connect with friends or to play a sport, have a drink, make a bet or two or enjoy musical entertainment.”

Unsurprisingly, Mukesh’s PhD dissertation focused on community clubs and it was driven by the desire to address a populist perception that community clubs are just liquor and gaming venues. In the spirit of making a difference, Mukesh investigated this claim and found community clubs are one of the few organisations with an innate ability to enrich the social capital of their members. As a study participant summarised it, “people come to clubs as strangers but often leave as friends”.

The comprehensive study ensured Mukesh’s admission into the oldest and most prestigious honour society, Golden Key, which admits members by invitation only, based on research excellence at the postgraduate level.

“My research skills were honed at USP,” Mukesh explained. “It was in those formative years that I built my capacity as a researcher. I just fell in love with what I was doing and decided it would make a good career.”

Good research skills have led to other exciting endeavours, including publication of ten short stories. Mukesh draws inspiration from the rapidly changing scenery of life to make his readers laugh, cry and, most importantly, enjoy the stories. In Mukesh’s writing, the language is simple and direct. It is a minimalist style that has had maximum reader effect.

“When I look at my two little boys, I often wonder what more life has in store for me,” Mukesh said, “but I know that tomorrow is another chance to let go of what I can’t control and make a difference in the little ways that I can.”

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Page updated: Monday, March 11, 2019
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