Student Services

Author - Dr Judy Skene, University of Western Australia

Judy is the Manager of Student Support Services at the University of Western Australia. Judy’s research interests include student teamwork and the role of Information and Communication Technology in engaging students beyond the classroom and providing seamless delivery of support services to students. The focus in her roles at the University of Western Australia (UWA) has been on supporting students in transition and working with academic and professional staff to raise awareness of the issues students face in FY. In addition to line management responsibilities, Judy currently has direct responsibility for coordination of the UniSkills and UniDiscovery programs. UniSkills is a benchmark program within Australia in transition support that has been running for 21 years.

Judy and her colleagues are also currently collaborating with UWA’s Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning to work in developing staff training around transition issues. With Jayne Brown, Judy coordinated the FY Initiatives Project which investigated staff attitudes to transition practices in UWA and developed consequent web based resources.

She recently co-authored (with Caspersz & Wu) the HERDSA Guide Managing Student Teams (2006). Judy has also been involved in Student Support since 2003, and worked in UWA’s Graduate Research School in 2005 to embed initiatives in support of graduate research skills and to facilitate international research student transition.

Judy has been part of several AUTC/Carrick program nominations, including a finalist in 2005 and in 2007 was awarded a Carrick Citation.

Further information is available from the University of Western Australia.

First Year Curriculum Perspective

This commentary examines first year curriculum design and the case study exemplars from the perspective of student support services (pdf 1.7MB). It serves to remind us again that the First Year Experience is more than retention: it is about ensuring that each student has a quality experience and feels accepted as a valued member of a lively learning community. For this to happen, students need to engage both within and beyond the classroom.

As the author notes, for many first year students, the transition to tertiary study is the transition to independent learning and independent living. To succeed academically, new students require balance in their daily lives, with secure accommodation, financial support and encouragement to achieve, so that they can concentrate on their studies. A curriculum that supports transition in first year in an holistic way is central to improved retention and a quality experience.

The imperative for academic and professional staff to work together to enhance the first year experience is squarely raised on this basis. The commentary observes that a very real challenge for those who deliver student support services is to get the message across that there are services there to assist, at a time when students are receptive. There are certain windows of opportunity around enrolment and orientation, but it is also well recognised that students can be overloaded with information and may be processing just what they need that moment. By the time they admit they need help with English language competency or they are having trouble with their lease, they may have forgotten the information handed out at enrolment. This is where having an integrated model of transition support through curriculum development is so vital, so that the message can be delivered in a variety of ways and at different critical points during the semester.

The commentary is structured around broad institutional themes in the first instance; then those that relate to faculty and/or central support; and finally, more individual support.