Sustaining research students support

Mr Graeme Baguley1, Dr Heena Akbar2, Ms Christine Wang3, Ms Youngnam Baek3, Mr Jun Seok Song4

1Community Mentors International, Brisbane, Australia, 2Woolworths Centre for Childhood Nutrition Research, QUT, Brisbane, Australia, 3Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, 4Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

A dilemma for most tertiary institutions has been to provide a vehicle to reduce isolation and build connections for their scholars, particularly those from overseas. The journey of a postgraduate research degree student can be a lonely one that requires immediate focus on enrolment and compliance with strict timelines.
Queensland University of Technology established the QUT Research Students Network in 2013 to build and promote self-confidence in research and personal skills while providing a supportive safe learning environment that enhances a positive student experience and fosters student wellness and positive interaction between domestic and international students.
In 2019, 118 workshops were voluntarily conducted by staff and research students from across the university with total attendance of 1,849. Satisfaction rates were high, averaging 98%. New initiatives in 2019 included more options for informal interaction such as weekly afternoon Coffee Breaks on each campus and a Board Games Café.
The restrictions for on-campus activities posed by COVID-19 created the impetus to explore online options for the full range of activities advertised. Facilitators, with the assistance of the QRSnet team, quickly responded with recorded talks on stress management; zooming workshops for painting, cooking, indoor plants do-it-yourself, other creative and wellness interests and academic and scholar perceptions on research milestones.

‘Coffee Breaks’ switched to weekly zoom events with topics and activities such as sharing cultural stories, recommendations for and listening to world music and discussions on successful research methods. Board Games Café quickly moved to online platforms like ‘Discord’ with attendance trebling in the first two weeks. Positive feedback since March has remained at the previous high level.

Graeme Baguley is a foundation member of ISANA (OSAN) and has held various national and Queensland state positions. He recently retired as Director of International Student Services at QUT after 30 years. As a professional social worker Graeme developed the preventable model of international student support which has been recognised as the initial blueprint for services across Australia. He is the recipient of the IEAA Excellence Award for Distinguished Contribution to International Education, Australian Learning and Teaching Award Citation, QUT Vice-Chancellors Excellence Award and inaugural Qld Premier’s Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to International Student Education’ for Leadership in International Education.

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