“Make it Happen” – a pre-orientation program hosted by the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) to support the transition of mature aged students into higher education

Ms Julie McKenzie1, Ms Michelle Killen1

1University Of Southern Queensland, Springfield , Australia

This project was initiated to facilitate a non-academic pre-orientation program for mature aged students who account for approximately 60% of USQ students (over 25 years of age) with a majority being online learners.  While research indicates targeted support may assist student success (e.g. Tones, Fraser, Elder, & White, 2009), early connections and engagement for online learners is recognised as essential (Stone, 2017). With this in mind, the project sought to create connection and engagement opportunities for students returning to learning.  The resulting 2-day “Make it Happen!” program provides an opportunity for mature aged students commencing at USQ to: explore who they are as students; develop strategies and skills that will support and prepare them for their study journey; link with other mature-aged students; and enhance their ICT skills before commencement.  Heagney & Benson (2017) identified a student-centred model of support that addresses specific cohort needs, opportunities to build connections with peers (online and on-campus); and, practical based learning experiences that contribute to mature-aged student success.  This workshop explores interactive practical learning tools including a webinar series, that use visual activities and whole of group discussion to create a setting for participants to begin to explore notions of self and connect with peers. In small groups, facilitators will discuss how they successfully use these activities with mature-age students and explore how these may work in the context of other student cohorts. The USQ pocket guide a resource for mature-aged students developed as part of this project will also be showcased.


Julie McKenzie BA, MHumServ, GradDipPsych;

Julie McKenzie is the Associate Director Student Services at USQ and has been working in higher education for 10 years.  Julie commenced her career in the human services industry working with youth and people with disabilities. Julie has followed her passion for supporting mature aged students and has initiated and developed a pilot project which targeted mature adult learners enrolled at USQ, by offering non-academic supports that foster student success.

Michelle Killen: BA, BEd(Sec), BBehavSc(HonsPsych)

Michelle is the Student Services Advisor who runs the “Make it Happen” program at USQ.  She commenced her career 11 years ago in the education field before focusing her work in the community sector. Michelle has brought her knowledge of, and passion for, education and capacity building programs to her work with the mature age learners enrolled at USQ.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by anzssa.com.


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at www.isana.org.au.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.