Poster Presentation Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Sydney University students helping other students navigate the uncertainties and complexities of campus life: A success story (#320)

Rebecca Johinke 1
  1. University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)


The role of Student Support Programs in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at The University of Sydney is to design, develop and deliver programs that foster a sense of belonging for new and current students. Our programs are designed to encourage students to connect with their peers and with the Faculty and institution as a whole, to build up their sense of capability, their sense of purpose, and their resourcefulness and cultural competence. We offer a suite of connected third generation engagement and retention programs and two of our longstanding programs are the FASS Mentoring program (senior students welcoming new students) and the Student Liaison Program (a network of student representatives who speak and act on behalf of their disciplinary cohort).

As a way to thank our student volunteers, Student Support Programs work with staff from Careers to tailor a number of master classes and events designed to help students: harness skills gained as a mentor and student representative; demonstrate leadership and communication skills; foster communication and self-awareness in the job market; focus on an area of chosen work; and develop networking and application skills. The Careers session was a pilot initiative in 2012 and offered to all Mentors and Student Representatives as a way of recognizing their contributions to the FASS Mentoring Program and Student Liaison Program. The master classes were offered in Semester 1 and Semester 2 with approximately 55 students registering for the sessions. Following the positive feedback in 2012, the sessions were repeated again in Semester 1 2013. In 2014, in collaboration with Careers and Alumni, we adapted the format and offered a number of graduate panels so that students could learn how other graduates parlayed their volunteering experiences into exciting careers. In 2015 we plan to expand on those panels and this poster will report on our latest initiatives.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)


The outcomes that arise from these volunteering programs are plentiful and this poster presentation will present our research findings and illustrate the success of the initiative. The training that our mentors and representatives receive as part of both volunteering programs helps educate students to be responsive and adaptable professionals in the complex world that they are about to face as graduates. Our research tells us that our mentors and representatives typically give their time to other students as an altruistic act of kindness rather than cynical acts designed to pad out their curriculum vitaes and advance their careers. However, in helping other students navigate uncertainty and complexity, almost by accident they provide evidence for employers that demonstrates their graduate skills and capabilities. Helping other students learn about campus life equips them to enter the workplace in a complex world.