Filling the communication gap with students upon enrolment: How external partnerships assist student services to manage and improve workflow

Mr Gordon Scott1, Dr Gretchen Dobson1

1Successful Graduate Pty Ltd, Ashgrove, Australia, 2Academic Assembly Inc, New York, USA

This workshop has been designed to help ISANA delegates to benchmark the efficiency of their international student service functions. Delegates will learn how to identify which student service functions should be improved, or have new processes applied which can provide scale and increased efficiency. For example, it may become apparent that many institutions are providing outdated career counselling services which are unable to meet student demand. With growing student numbers in Australia and pressure on student service budgets, institutions can no longer service their entire student cohort through 1:1 services. Partnerships with external providers can improve the reach and quality of student services. Academic staff, marketing, recruitment and educational support specialists will be guided through an efficiency benchmarking framework (modelled around the 6 Sigma methodology) that we have designed for adoption by the international education industry. The audience will break into small groups to identify student service priorities, and relevant performance measures will be developed by each group to address these priorities. The groups will be introduced to the efficiency benchmarking framework (mentioned above) that will allow institutions to measure their services and analyse whether those services can be improved by introducing scale and efficiency. We will provide examples of solutions to ongoing and emerging challenges such as the increased demand for student employability measures, ways to best leverage alumni and their industries, managing student accommodation, and improving Work Integrated Learning / Internship placement outcomes. Workshop participants will take away the benchmark framework and the workshopped examples will be written up and made available for publication on the ISANA website after the conference.


Mr Gordon Scott.

Gordon is Managing Director of Successful Graduate Pty Ltd, and offers assistance to education providers and government agencies with an international education agenda across the Asia Pacific region. Gordon launched the award-winning Study Brisbane initiative in 2009 and created his new company in June 2016. With more than 23 years of experience, Gordon has served as a Board Director at the IEAA and as a member of the Queensland Ministerial International Education and Training Advisory Group. He has a Bachelor of Commerce, a Bachelor of Modern Asian Studies and a postgraduate qualification in Technology Management. Gordon is an active member of IEAA, NAGCAS, ISANA, AAGE and EduGrowth. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management.

Dr Gretchen Dobson.

With over 23 years of experience in higher education and constituent relations, Dr. Gretchen Dobson and her team at Academic Assembly, Inc. lead institutions, governments and member-based organizations towards sustainable international alumni engagement strategies and solutions. Dr. Dobson is the author of Being Global: Making the Case for International Alumni Relations (CASE Books, 2011), the International Travel Handbook: Engaging Constituents Abroad (Academic Impressions, 2014), and editor of Staying Global: How International Alumni Relations Advances the Agenda (EAIE, 2015). She was recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the leading “Innovators in Internationalization” for her work at Tufts University (USA). Dobson serves as Board Chair of United Planet, a network of leaders and volunteers fostering cross-cultural understanding and addressing shared challenges to unite the world in a community beyond borders. Dobson received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Boston College, and her Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania. She is based in Port Macquarie, Australia.

Bitter side of Saudis re-entry after studying abroad

Mr Naif Daifullah Z Alsulami1

1Umm Al-qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

This paper is part of a doctoral study seeking to gain an in-depth understanding of how returning Saudi international students experience their re-entry to Saudi Arabia and why they have such experiences. The participants of this qualitative study were 13 male and eight female Saudis who spent about one to six years living in English speaking countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, undertaking postgraduate studies. Preliminary findings from the interviews with the participants showed that returning Saudi students experienced several challenges such as reverse culture shock, conflicting values and third culture kids as result of the changes happened to their cultural identity. The findings also showed some themes emerged that have not been found in the previous studies conducted in different contexts such as challenges with driving cars for Saudi female, challenges with cultural norms, loss of freedom for females, bureaucracy, educational challenges and Wasta. In fact, Wasta refers to using one’s connections and/or influence to get things done, including in government transactions such as for a quick renewal of a passport, waiving of traffic fines, and being hire for or promoted in a job,. Moreover, the findings showed that the participants have changed but the society did not appreciate this change and looked at them suspiciously. The participants adopted some coping strategies such as reducing the high expectation, contacting with family while studying abroad, sharing their experiences with other returning friends and working within the available spaces.


Niaf Daifullah Z Alsulami has a Master of Education specialising in international education from Monash University in 2014. He has started his PhD candidature from 2014 at Monash. Between 2010 -2012 he worked at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca as a teaching assistant and researcher. Naif is an experienced teacher and researcher. He has experience as a qualitative researcher.

The cultural and digital Transition of Saudi Female International Students in Australia

Haifa Binsahl1, Shanton Chang1, Rachelle Bosua

1 University of Melbourne

There is a good proportion of Saudi international students who are women in Australia. Yet, not much is published or known about the experiences of Saudi Female International Students (SFIS). SFIS represent an emerging and different segment of transient migrants who are culturally and digitally unique. A central question in this paper is how does the transition of Saudi female international students between Saudi Arabia and Australia impact their online and offline experiences over time? This paper highlights some of the findings from interviews with 50 SFIS (25 students who are relatively new to Australia, and another 25 students who have returned home to Saudi Arabia after their studies). An  analysis of the 50 students showed that Saudi cultural and digital norms, language, social networks and Australian advanced digital environment influenced their information searches and their adjustment challenges. For example, some of the factors that were initially considered opportunities to enhance their online interactions when they first moved to Australia, eventually also caused readjustment challenges after their return to Saudi Arabia. For instance, SFIS in this study identified their exposure to the Australian advanced research and digital environment as positively increasing their reliance on online tools such as e-mails, Google Maps, e-libraries and academic databases. However, this became a challenge when they returned to Saudi Arabia because of the lack of support for such behaviours and research cultures (including the limited use of e-mails). This paper explains the context of SFIS and will also highlight areas that institutions could focus on when working with and providing support for this group of students.


Assoc Professor Shanton Chang is an ISANA life member and an academic at The University of Melbourne. His latest project in international students’ online behaviour has been published and presented internationally. He was also previously Assistant Dean (International) at the Melbourne School of Engineering.

Haifa Binsahl is a Saudi female student, who is sponsored by King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Scholarship Program. She received her Master degree in Information Systems from the University of Melbourne. Her Master thesis was about the use of social networking sites by Saudi females in Australia. The thesis was published and presented in a conference in 2012. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems. She is interested in topics of how transient migrants seek their information  when moving across countries. Her Ph.D. research is focusing on the impact of cultural and digital transition experience on Saudi female international students’ information seeking behaviour ( ISB) when they are in Australia and whether the movement forth and back from one culture to the other may impact their ISB.

“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.

Building our resilience to support our students: removing the barrier of fear and inexperience in providing therapeutic interventions for students in an online environment


Mrs Kellie Cathcart1

1Whole Psychology / University Of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia

It has been largely thought that clinician reluctance to step into offering e-mental health services to students has been about concern that technology will fail, privacy will be compromised or that it will replace the traditional modes of therapy. However, initial research has indicated that the largest barrier is the clinician’s self confidence in providing the services. Specifically clinician’s indicated that they were concerned about being unable to develop rapport and a working therapeutic relationship with clients as well as feeling they lacked the skills to use specific psychological techniques outside the face-to-face environment (Inglis & Cathcart, 2016). The aim of this workshop is to increase the confidence of the clinician in providing these services through having an opportunity to see examples of successful engagement and use of a range of therapeutic techniques, and through the practice of their own skills within these environments during the workshop. The workshop will focus on the following core skills:

  • Using basic counselling principles across text, audio and visual environments
  • Using the core components of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in an online setting
  • Using the core components of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in an online setting
  • Preparing to act on risk of harm in an online setting.

Workshop participants will be asked to bring a tablet, phone or laptop to the workshop with access to Skype for participation in the workshop activities.


Kellie is a clinical psychologist who has worked in clinical, research and project work for over 15 years. Kellie has worked with both adults and children in a broad range of services across a number of modalities both within the public and private domain.

Kellie has also worked with the Hunter Institute of Mental Health on their Mindframe projects with the media, mental health and drama industries around responsible reporting and portrayal of mental health and suicide. She has also worked with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in the development and implementation of clinical trials of online therapeutic interventions for individuals with drug and alcohol disorders.

Kellie also works at the University of Newcastle both as a counsellor and guest lecturer. During this time Kellie developed, implemented and evaluated a unique and highly successful model for online counselling services offered to students. She has published work on this model and presented at major conferences over the past two years.

As the founder of Whole Psychology Kellie is interested in continuing her work in the online environment in collaborating across Australian and New Zealand Universities as well as within organisations and individual work.


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


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

Conference Managers

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