Ewan isbister

It’s about the journey, not the destination: How Burgmann shaped Ewan Isbister’s story

Alumnus Ewan Isbister (1989–1990) is a fundraising expert in the not-for-profit space and recently became a member of Burgmann College Council. Ewan lends his support to the Advancement Office and is a familiar face at many Alumni Events. Thank you, Ewan, for this interview, and also for your ongoing support of Burgmann!

Ewan Isbister moved to Canberra from Albury, NSW in 1989 to live at Burgmann College while doing a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies at the Australian National University. A self-professed “shy, conservative country boy”, he credits Burgmann with being a formative time in his life.

“As Burgmann had a diverse student base from the country, city and international students, it was a hotbed of worldliness for me and opened my eyes to experience all sorts of different cultures and viewpoints. I did a lot of growing up at Burgmann!”

Ewan entered Burgmann College with many career goals, but his experience at College taught him to go with the flow and enjoy the learning process. “It was more about the journey than the destination,” he says.

After finishing university, Ewan used his language and culture skills in his role at a language translation company, before moving into import/export marketing roles dealing with the South Pacific and Japan.

“At that point,” he shares, “I realised I wanted to do marketing with a purpose, so I fell into a career of fundraising for charities.”

Ewan spent several years working in fundraising roles for International NGOs like Amnesty, Greenpeace, UNICEF and WaterAid. He is now a freelance fundraising consultant, mainly working in the environment, international development and health areas for small to medium charities.

Ewan shares that there are many challenges in this dynamic role. “Fundraising is never easy and it is becoming even harder,” he says. “There are ever increasing needs to address both domestically and internationally.”

However, he is quick to add that it is extremely fulfilling work. “You can see the direct impact on people and places, now and for future generations.”

Many of the skills he uses in his current role he picked up during his time at Burgmann, including “acceptance, understanding, tolerance, collaboration and independence.”

Ewan says that these skills don’t just assist in his professional life, but his personal life as well. “Because of Burgmann, I am comfortable in my own skin.”

Ewan has many fond memories from Burgmann, including the Burgmann bar nights where it was a tradition for everyone to run onto the dance floor and dance like crazy whenever the 2RS DJ would play New Order’s Blue Monday. “To this day, whenever I hear that tune the memories come flooding back.”

Another Burgmann memory Ewan shares is the time he was in an Economics lecture with 300 other students when the phone at the front of the hall began to persistently ring. The lecturer finally answered it and announced to the room that there was an urgent call for ‘Melba Northey’. The dozen or so Burg ressies in the lecture erupted with laughter, because Melba Northey was Principal Bob Northey’s dog.

“For me,” Ewan says, “this represented the harmless irreverent fun of the Burgmann residents of that time.”

To current and future residents of Burgmann College, Ewan has this advice: “Have fun, first and foremost, because uni years are some of the best years. Explore all that Burgmann and uni has to offer, academically, creatively and socially."

Ewan isbister
Ewan Isbister
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