Issue 4
Monday, 03 June 2019
Charles Darwin University
CDU’s new Director of Student Engagement, Sarah Fletcher wants to equip students with the skills to successfully transition to employment
CDU’s new Director of Student Engagement, Sarah Fletcher wants to equip students with the skills to successfully transition to employment

New Director takes charge of student engagement

CDU’s recently appointed Director of Student Engagement, Sarah Fletcher has identified the need for proactive support and equipping students with the skills to successfully transition to employment as key areas of focus in her role.

Ms Fletcher, who worked in a similar role at the University of Sydney before joining CDU, said a key aim was to ensure students felt supported from Orientation onwards.

“There is overwhelming data indicating if you get a student through the first year they have a good chance of successfully completing their studies,” she said.

“But that doesn’t mean we should just assume all is well just because a student is a fair way along their learning journey. We need to be alert to students’ situations and be prepared to be pro-active in offering support if a student appears to be struggling for some reason.”

While the size of CDU’s on-campus student population means it is possible to be able to detect where these students might be becoming stressed, it’s more difficult with the 70% of the student population studying online.

“The challenge for a number of years now has been how to translate the on-campus learning experience into the digital format. While the learning itself has been successfully incorporated into the digital environment, the same probably can’t be said for other aspects of the campus experience such as support and pastoral care,” Ms Fletcher said.

“We need to develop an early warning system for our online students that allows us to offer assistance that may help turn things around at an early stage rather than only discover a problem when it’s too late to turn things around.”

Ms Fletcher also sees the need to build the confidence of CDU graduates in their skills, knowledge, experience and self-belief.

“I think embedding work integrated learning right through the structure of our individual undergraduate courses could really help,” Ms Fletcher said.

“If students are regularly out in the real world during their undergrad years it gives them a practical understanding of the dynamics of workplaces and sectors they might ultimately be employed in.

“It also gives them experience in applying their learning in new ways and in a context that often can’t be replicated in a teaching environment. This helps build confidence so when our graduates enter the workforce they already have a feel for what lies ahead and can better cope with the new environment,” Ms Fletcher said.

There will also be an effort to make employers aware that CDU has students and graduates right across the country and opportunities with major employers to connect with students in various locations.

Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Engagement and Success, Professor Philip Seltsikas said: “Sarah brings a wealth of experience to CDU and her leadership of the newly created Student Engagement team will see positive impacts on our student retention rates across the university.”