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 For example, it may become apparent that many institutions are providing outdated career counselling services which are unable to meet student demand.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.

Peer-led Facebook to connect, support and inspire successful transition

Roselynn Lang1

1Manager, Peer Learning and Support, Curtin University

The New to Curtin UniMentor Program is a university-wide opt out mentoring program which utilises experienced students to act as mentors to all new students. In semester one 2017, 494 mentors assisted over 7,000 new students to transition to the university. In 2017 Facebook was selected as the preferred social media modality and introduced into the program to enhance connectivity, build community, utilise peer support and just-in-time communication, to connect, support and inspire successful transition. The closed Facebook group was modelled on the successful peer-mediated Facebook groups established by our UniPASS team, which is nationally accredited through the Australasian PASS Centre, University of Wollongong. Facebook was selected for its ubiquity, informality, fluidity of communication, and frequency of use among Curtin University’s diverse student body. Initial results demonstrate that the use of student-driven online support communities allow for a vibrant learning and supportive community where students have connected with peers socially and academically, creating a safe, student-centred space to seek support and share content-specific learning resources and interests. The Facebook group has also provided an additional metric to measure impact and student engagement with the program.


Roselynn Lang is the Manager, Peer Learning and Support at Curtin University.

You did what?!! The benefits of collaborating with students on risk behaviours outside the classroom

Ms Jane Gunn-lewis1, Ms Louisa Samson1

1Arcadia University, Queenstown, New Zealand, 2Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand

For most students, studying abroad is a special semester where exploring and engaging with the local environment is where most learning takes place. Students’ engagement results in personal growth and a sense of achievement and empowerment. For this reason, universities in NZ and Australia promote the local environs as part of the study abroad experience and work hard to ensure students feel part of the local community and engage socially. At the same time, students are increasingly accountable for their behaviour both on and off campus. The challenge is having students engage in the local environment but also make good decisions and stay safe. How can we encourage wise choices in students when most providers do not even know the risks students are taking or what they perceive as risky?

In this session we examine the results of a questionnaire given to 170 American students studying at a New Zealand university about topics such as drinking, drugs, driving, casual sex and adventure activities. Results were not what we expected. For example, over a quarter of our students reported hitch hiking. We compared these results with a smaller cohort in Australia and Spain, and found that risk behaviour is partly dependent on destination. Lastly we share the response of the University of Otago to address a ‘risk behaviour’ (hiking). We suggest that collaboration with faculty, international and domestic students, along with an emphasis on ‘education’ rather than ‘regulation’ can lead to not just safer behaviours but increased personal growth and good decision making while building a sense of campus community.


Jane Gunn-Lewis began as a lecturer in English language at Basel University, Switzerland and then moved into learning support and international education at UNITEC Auckland. Jane moved to Queenstown with her family for a lifestyle change in 2000 and has been with Arcadia since the inception of their NZ programmes in 2001 and manages to squeeze in as much skiing and hiking as her busy schedule with US study abroad students allows.

Louisa works as an International Student Adviser and also coordinates International Orientation at the University of Otago.  Previously she worked in Marketing and IT before leaving New Zealand in 2008 to live with her family in Tahiti for 8 years. During this time she worked as an English Language Teacher at a French speaking high school and at the Chamber of Commerce in Papeete as well doing translation work. She was also part of a youth association coordinating events and providing pastoral care to young people and their families. Louisa is passionate about her work supporting international students and the importance of an effective and meaningful orientation programme.  She is very excited to be attending and presenting at her first ISANA conference.

Blended learning: A new approach to peer mentor training

Ms Katie Yamaguchi1, Ms Rita Kusevskis-Hayes2

1UNSW Sydney, Kensington, Australia, 2UNSW Sydney, Kensington, Australia

The Peer Mentor blended learning training package was an initiative developed by the Peer Mentoring @ UNSW coordinating team to provide an accessible and flexible training for mentors, whilst simultaneously making the training more sustainable by reducing staff time and facilitation costs.

Mentor training had previously been delivered via a six-hour interactive face-to-face workshop. When the new blended learning training package was developed, both training materials and methods were re-designed, considering which aspects of the content would best suit either the online or face-to-face format, to maximise each student’s learning experience. It was important to ensure that the training remained engaging whilst allowing students to reflect on their learning and transition experiences as a first-year student.  The new blended learning training package consists of a two-hour online component which aligns with a three hour face-to-face workshop.

There are many complexities and considerations when moving from a face-to-face training to a blended learning format. However, if the new format is developed successfully, there are also many benefits to be gained by both mentors and facilitators. This presentation will look at the redesign of the previous face-to-face training content and the integration of the two main components. It will explore the methods and tools used to design the online component, the use of the online platform for administrative purposes, the implementation process and evaluations. Lastly, it will reflect on challenges faced and future developments.


Katie Yamaguchi is a Project Officer with ‘Student Life’, at UNSW Sydney. Katie brings over 10 years of experience in education, training and event management, to create purposeful programs and training packages for ‘Peer Mentoring @ UNSW’. Previously, Katie’s position at UNSW ’s Student Development International, also required her to use her skills and knowledge to design workshops and events to meet the needs of incoming international students.

Increasing international student success through engagement in employability skills

Miss Liz Journeaux1, Miss Emma Hart1

1Studygroup – Taylors College 

Repeated feedback from both employers and graduates indicates a lack of “job ready” skills in the labour market amongst our graduate populations.

Using your initiative, leadership, communication and time management are often seen as “soft skills”. However, under the adage of “soft skills pay bills” it would seem timely to prepare students for life after graduation.

Introducing students to the idea of employability skills early in their academic career can create conflict with pressures of academic achievement however. Creating relevance and appropriate learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom is an achievable challenge for institutions offering a holistic, enriched approach to international education.

Addressing skill gaps by engaging students in the wider community through volunteer opportunities is beneficial to both students and the local community. Volunteering promotes a sense of worth and belonging for our students and provides a wealth of services to the local community. Workplace projects, event volunteering, opportunities for paid work and ongoing volunteer opportunities bridge the gap between our communities and our international student body.

Educators must prepare students early to face the challenges of a competitive global recruitment market. This requires innovation and embracing a widening approach to our traditional view of academia.


Liz Journeaux has worked in the International Education sector for over 10 years. She has held a variety of roles in the admissions, marketing and counselling areas of this sector. She is currently overseeing the new StudyGroup initiative of Employability Skills at the StudyGroup Taylors College Perth Campus.

Study Gold Coast Employability Program overview

Mrs Shannon Willoughby1

1CEO, Study Gold Coast 

Study Gold Coast has taken a principal role in Australia’s largest city-wide student employability program, aimed at showcasing career opportunities, facilitating stronger connections between students and industry and boosting our economy. The major supporters of the program are Gold Coast City Council, the Business Advisory Board and education providers including all Gold Coast universities and TAFE Queensland Gold Coast.

This presentation will explain how the Employability program aims to enhance the student experience through promoting the relationship and connection between employers and students. In positioning the Gold Coast as an education city the goal is to keep top talent on the Gold Coast through improved graduate outcomes thus leading the economic growth of the diverse businesses of tomorrow.

As part of this program a key development is the launch of the Student Hub in August, open to all students on the Gold Coast as a place for students to Connect, Learn, Explore and Support. The commitment and funding by Queensland State Government of the hub supports Study Gold Coast’s mission to promote, grow and unite the city’s education sector, enhancing student experience and increasing employability on the Gold Coast.


Shannon Willoughby is the Chief Executive Officer and Committee Secretary of Study Gold Coast, the peak industry and city marketing body for the Gold Coast’s education and training sector.

Holding a Bachelor of Communication from Bond University, Shannon is a former senior journalist at the Gold Coast Bulletin. Also the former long-term president of Young Professionals Gold Coast, Shannon is infinitely passionate about the Gold Coast and has been a leader in drawing attention to the city’s issues and potential. Shannon is currently Councillor for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland’s (CCIQ) Gold Coast Regional Policy Council and board member of Ohana for Youth, Gen-Z Employment and Regional Development Australia.

International Student & Alumni Satisfaction Survey 2017 – results and key findings for Australian and New Zealand Universities

Mr Shane Dillon1

1International Alumni Job Network (iajn), Central Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Education institutions, associations and governments promise that an international education will lead students to a better future. It is this promise that compels students and their families to invest enormous amounts of money on an Australian qualification, but are students reaping the return?

The International Alumni Job Network (IAJN) is the first employment group focused on career outcomes for international students who have graduated from Australian and New Zealand universities. As Asia’s largest network of international alumni and the only network of its type and scale, worldwide, IAJN is uniquely positioned  to support returning international students to fulfill the education to career promise.

IAJN has had over 100,000+ international students, graduates and alumni become members in its first year of operation. Our members have returned to Asia after graduating from universities in Australia, US, UK, New Zealand and Canada. Staying true to its vision of connecting people; IAJN plays an important role in connecting graduates with industry in Asia.

In 2017 we surveyed IAJN members for the inaugural International Student & Alumni Survey. The findings provide valuable insight into the return on an international education and resulting incomes and career outcomes and where your institution stands in the eyes of  alumni after they return home.

Shane Dillon (Founder of IAJN) will present the results of the survey, including key findings and recommendations on how to engage with international alumni moving forward.


Shane Dillon is the founder of the International Alumni Job Network (IAJN).  IAJN is the first employment group focused on career outcomes for international students who have graduated from Australian, UK, Canadian, US and New Zealand universities. IAJN provides a professional network for returning international students, a community to engage with industry, events and brands and a job platform to connect with employers across Asia. IAJN engages international students, graduates and alumni to maintain ties with education host countries, universities, trade and industry groups enabling lifelong relationships that strengthen and benefit cross cultural and bilateral co-operation. IAJN currently has over 100,000+ members who have returned to Asia after graduating from universities in Australia, US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

Understanding well-being and mental health amongst higher degree research students – a framework for change

Dr Heidi Ellemor1

1La Trobe University Student Union, Upper Agora West, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia

Increasing evidence points to the extent and impact of well-being and mental health problems amongst higher degree research students, both internationally and within Australia. This research paints an alarming picture about the potential impact of current academic conditions on mental health and more broadly, student well-being (for example Levecque et al 2017). As staff providing support services to research students in the higher education sector, we see the way in which student well-being and more serious mental health issues effect and are affected by the research student experience. We know enough to tell us that the well-being of research students and their mental health is a significant problem requiring further attention, that our current organisational context is not helping (and indeed is a key contributor to the problem) and that our current support structures are not sufficient to mitigate the impact and provide the level of support that is required. It is in this context that we have begun work at La Trobe University to try to better understand how these problems are manifesting themselves within the higher degree research student population, how this intersects with the organisational context, and what we can do to change this. These are big challenges and we are only beginning to address them. In this paper we will report on the initial steps La Trobe University and the La Trobe University Student Union are taking to tackle this problem. This presentation will also explore ways in which universities and student unions can work together to improve support services, the student experience and educational outcomes for research students.


Heidi is a postgraduate student advocate at the La Trobe University Student Union. Her current role includes providing advice and support to postgraduate coursework and research students, developing students’ understanding of their rights and responsibilities and working collaboratively with the university to help address key issues. She is particularly interested in the challenges faced by higher degree research students and in working collaboratively with the University to improve support for research students. Prior to joining the LTSU advocacy team in 2012, Heidi worked as an academic, researching and teaching in Australia and New Zealand.



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.