UTASLife supporting students to succeed through cultural conversations

Dona Leach1

1 University of Tasmania, Churchill Avenue, Sandy  Bay, Tasmania, 7005, dona.leach@utas.edu.au

Building networks and strengthening social connections are the key aims of the UTASLife team. This program supports students throughout the student lifecycle, from the transition stage on to graduation and beyond. UTASLife does this by offering students the opportunity to take advantage of the wide range of social activities. Students have the opportunity to have a break from their studies and get to know students from around the world and discover other people’s cultures. These activities have also been established for students to explore Tasmania, engage in cultural immersion, interact with people in the local community and experience a variety of volunteering activities. All of these activities are facilitated by the Student Engagement Leaders who are employed by the university which leave students more career ready at the completion of their degree.

One of the highlighted events is the UTAS Human Library program which is designed to widen students’ cultural perspective, a valuable benefit that offers students an opportunity to interact with others socially. This is a chance for them to share their unique set of life experiences, stories, and knowledge to enhance better understanding of social cohesion and diversity at all levels at UTAS.  Students communicate their stories both verbally and visually, as many choose to wear the traditional dress of their country of birth. The Human Library made appearances at UTAS events, including the annual UTAS Open Day.

This program is becoming known to the wider community, regular visits to school and aged care services have been organised for the entire year. Since 2013, there have been 548 student participations from over 45 nationalities visit 17 schools and 21 engagement at Aged Care facilities and 15 presentations to various community organisations.

The students’ feedback to this initiative have been very positive. An evaluation of this program is ongoing which will allow for review and development of the program and the delivery.


Biography:

Dona Leach works as a Student Engagement Coordinator at University of Tasmania and has been in this role for four years managing multiple events which are diverse –  catering to international students. She has created numerous strategies and made the program an award winning initiative – Vice Chancellor’s Most Outstanding Contribution to Enhancement of the Student Experience 2015.