Innovation accolade for UON’s international student engagement

The University of Newcastle’s Language Centre has received national recognition for its innovative approach to teaching English to its diverse cohort of international students.

The 2014 English Australia Innovation Award recognises the effectiveness and success of UON’s Student Experience Programs, delivered by the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre (ELFSC).

International students at the Language Centre are encouraged to participate in the Student Experience Programs, which give them opportunities to engage with Australian students, other international students and the community.

ELFSC Director, Associate Professor Seamus Fagan, commended the efforts of staff on demonstrating original and creative problem-solving initiatives to engage international students with positive experiences that enhance their Australian study experience and help build strong relationships.

“The strong need for innovative holistic programs, such as the Student Experience Programs at our centre, has never been more apparent, and I am delighted that the hard work of our staff has been formally recognised with this award,” Associate Professor Fagan said.

The SEP was introduced in response to international student feedback seeking greater interaction with Australian students and the local community.

The Student Experience Programs include, an international friendship program, speed conversation sessions, visits to the Newcastle Museum or Farmers’ Market with Australian university students and volunteering at events such as the Newcastle Maritime Festival, Sydney New Year’s Eve Festival or at the Hunter Wetlands Centre.

“The programs were developed to provide a range of practical opportunities for meaningful engagement with other International and Australian students, as well as members of the local community, through activities that would be complementary to students’ study.

“The programs also provide a social aspect to ensure all students felt welcome and part of our University and local community.”

Student engagement coordinator Mrs Robyn Gentemann said through the Student Experience Programs, international students were able meet new friends and get involved in the community while practising their English skills and developing confidence.

“This work has been strongly supported by a number of UON staff, students, the iLead program and local community organisations that have worked to support these programs and the students on their journey.”

The award, sponsored by the international ELT testing company ETS TOEFEL, was presented at the Gala Dinner of the annual English Australia Conference in Melbourne on Thursday 18 September.

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