Ms Mandy Kitchener1, Mr Simon Jeanes1, Ms Helen Zhang1
1La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia
The Buddy Program was created in 2019 to address social isolation on campus and help facilitate students to make friends, develop peer networks and engage in cross cultural exchange. The purpose of the program is to provide an opportunity for social interaction with a secondary aim to target isolated students that find it difficult to connect with others while also providing a referral point for staff to support student’s wellbeing.
In 2020 the program was adjusted significantly to be delivered completely online due to Covid -19. Our main challenge was how to create a close-knit community without being able to meet face to face or hold any of the usual events and ensuring continued engagement with a program that was now solely online. It has been a challenging year for many students and this program has provided an opportunity for them to connect and be part of a welcoming and diverse community.
Feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive, notably highlighting that during lockdown it gave them a chance to the connect; to have a laugh together and create great memories.
Mandy Kitchener is the Health and Wellbeing Project Coordinator for students who live on campus at La Trobe University. She develops and facilitates tailored programming, wellbeing initiatives as well online induction modules and student leadership training.
Mandy uses a strengths based, client centred approach to develop capacity and strengthen resilience in individuals and communities. She is collaborative and proactive in creating innovative wellbeing programming that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Simon Jeanes is a Coordinator in the International Student Services team at La Trobe University. Simon has a passion for providing great student service to International Students by meeting with students in one on one Case Management appointments regarding any issues they may be facing. Simon has assisted Mandy Kitchener in the provision of the Buddy program and loves how effective the program is in linking new students together to facilitate connections, integration, cross cultural awareness and a great La Trobe experience