When approaching a research task with as broad a topic as ‘the student experience’, it can be easy to be absolutely confused, overwhelmed and a little bit hesitant. But the truth is that having a topic so broad is actually a blessing. As a researcher, it gives you the freedom to choose just about anything you’re interested in (ie. Social media, sport or food) and somehow twist it to fit into the topic of student experience.
Personally, I was definitely feeling confused, overwhelmed and a LOT hesitant when first met with the task of researching the student experience. However, after taking the time to think about it for a few days, I have realised that there are so many aspects of the student experience that we tend to take for granted or ignore that would make incredible research topics to better understand the overall university student experience.
My initial ideas all tended to revolve around the central idea of campus accommodation. As a second-year student who has continued to live on campus for my second year when many students tend to find their own place, the reasons behind why people choose to live on campus or not is something that is not only highly relevant to me but also incredibly interesting.
But the super interesting thing about researching student experience in relation to campus accommodation is the fact that there are so many aspects of student experience that are affected or impacted by the choice to live in campus accommodation or not.
Academic performance, mental health and general wellbeing and economic stability are all aspects of the student experience that can be affected positively or negatively dependent on the student and their choice to live on campus or off. From experience, I have found that living in an environment surrounded entirely by other university students definitely has its benefits, in that we all (more or less) share a common goal and that is to attend university and (generally) do well. However, there are also disadvantages; being surrounded by 1000 other stressed uni students at exam time can drain your enthusiasm levels very quickly and enhance your procrastination skills, not the ideal mix when you have multiple exams in a very short time frame.
Now I’d like to throw another ingredient into the mixing bowl that is campus accommodation; student leaders. You know, the people you ring at 3am when you’ve locked yourself out of your bedroom or the ones who are (undeservedly) given the title of party pooper when they inevitably have to shut down your rowdy wednesday night pres? Most student leaders in UOW campus accommodation sites study at university full time, work an (almost) full time job as a student leader, most likely work casually to be able to support themselves financially as well as finding time to maintain their own personal wellbeing and social relationships. It’s a lot, there’s no denying that. So what I would like to know is how does taking on the role of student leader positively or negatively affect their overall student experience as a student of UOW, as well as the experience of the residents that they are entrusted to lead.
Finding previously done research on the comparison between experiences of Student leaders and ordinary residents, is incredibly difficult. So I decided to slightly alter my approach. The role of a student leader can be described as many things, however at its core, the role can be seen a mentor position. When focusing on this ‘mentor’ aspect, it becomes significantly easier to find supporting evidence. A study conducted by the Peer Mentoring at University of New South Wales (UNSW), Rita Baterna-Daluz in 2012 outlines the goals of peer mentoring at UNSW in particular, as well as the training process undertaken by the mentors to ensure they are able to adequately fulfil their roles. In defining the idea of ‘student partnership’, the study highlights the fact that “it is not only the university staff who have the sole input for student experience.” I found this point (and study) highly useful in planning the remainder of my research, as it more or less summarises the whole point that Student Leaders have a profound impact on a resident’s experience.
A recent article published in the Port Macquarie News talks about the rise that Charles Sturt University in Port Macquarie has experienced in terms of students choosing to live on campus in 2019. The article largely attributes this jump to the provision of services available, including Student Leaders. In contrast, the article also interviews the head Residence (student) Leader, who acknowledges the challenges that leading and managing so many residents can pose. In terms of my research, this article has shown that Student Leaders are a crucial part of residence life and can make a substantial difference to a student’s experience, while also facing challenges of their own.
I’m excited to really get started with this research, stay tuned!
Catch ya on the flip side,
Baterna-Daluz, R. 2012, ‘Up-skilled, look : it’s a mentor. It’s a training facilitator. It’s a super mentor. “The benefits of student partnership”‘, JANZSSA, vol. 40 pp.1-6, viewed 20 March 2019 https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/fullText;dn=195078;res=AEIPT, A+ Education database.
Telford, L 2019, ‘Charles Sturt University Port Macquarie play host to over 200 students living on campus in 2019’, Port Macquarie News, 6 March, https://www.portnews.com.au/story/5937428/full-capacity-as-more-students-decide-to-live-at-csu/