Congratulations to Edith Cowan University and their Virtual Connect program for receiving 2021 WA International Education Program of the Year Award.

Dr Kevin McKenna, CISWA President, on behalf of Medibank presented the WA International Education Program of the Year Award to Clair Mermejo (middle), Senior Student Transitions and Employability Officer and Mitch Rose, Student Success Officer (left) at Edith Cowan University.

The CISWA WA International Education Program of the Year Award recognises the work of an individual or team in a Western Australian education institution that has contributed to the welfare or support of international students. For example, communication support programs, pathways initiatives, or social inclusion activities.

Additional weight was given to any activities which promote interaction with Australian students, with the local community or help students settle into life in Australia.

2021 WINNER: Virtual Connect at Edith Cowan University

During COVID-19 all of the universities and colleges were aware of the many difficulties faced by their students, particularly international students, both in WA and those overseas. All educational institutions with international students established various support measures.
Edith Cowan University was particularly successful in this regard with their Virtual Connect program.
The program grew from their International Café which operated before COVID-19 as a weekly face-to-face social program. Within three weeks of COVID-19 shut-down it was operating as Virtual Connect. It now operates as a weekly event for the whole of the semester, involving students on-shore and off-shore, both international and domestic. All events start with an ice-breaker but then Peer Mentors take over. Sometimes the mentors facilitate sessions providing support on topics like online study, isolation cooking recipes and keeping fit at home. Sometimes the sessions involve staff from areas like counseling, the library and careers, highlighting the support that is available.
A Teams chat room has also been established as students wanted to continue the conversations and support outside the weekly meetings. Now that Virtual Connect is global, new international students can enter a virtual environment that connects them to each other, their peers and to Western Australia. A survey showed that 100% of students would recommend Virtual Connect to other students.

This award is proudly sponsored by:


2020 WINNER: Murdoch University – ELAS (The Embedded Learning and Study) Program

This program is a peer-to-peer initiative for commencing international postgraduate students, designed to support their transition into their studies in Australia. The program is delivered by trained upper year international postgraduate students who draw on their own experiences to engage in discussions with new students and basically decide the issues to be covered. The program is embedded in a gate keeper unit so participation is very high.

Evaluation of the program shows that it has not only been very effective in supporting commencing students and developing the student leaders but has also provided suggestions on how academic staff could better support international student learning

2019 WINNER: Edith Cowan University – SOAR (Support, Opportunities, Advice, Resources)

The SOAR Program (Support, Opportunities, Advice, Resources) is a peer-to-peer support service created by Edith Cowan University (ECU) in 2009. ECU Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students are employed to run the service, providing them with casual work which is relevant to, and that complements, their studies. Called SOAR Ambassadors, the HDR students provide their peers with the opportunity to have one-on-one consultations in various skill areas relevant to research design, methodology, software and general skills necessary to succeed and cope as an HDR candidate. SOAR Ambassadors themselves learn and develop their leadership, interpersonal and communication skills along the way. Developing these attributes means they will be better placed for employment in the future, and this is one of the program’s main aims.

2018 WINNER: Edith Cowan University – Experiencing Australia Program

The Experiencing Australia Program as part of the Tokyo City University Australia Program provides students with an orientation, four off-campus and five on-campus events, a language exchange program and a buddy program.

The Buddy Program promotes interaction between TAP students and ECU’s Australian students and international students and is designed to provide support, friendship and encouragement to TAP students for the duration of their study-abroad program at ECU. As the majority of classes in which the TAP students participate do not include other ECU students, the Buddy Program fullfils an important role within the overarching program. The mutually-beneficial program facilitates friendships between the TAP participants and ECU students, both domestic and international, with international students accounting for 37% of our buddies. The program provides all parties with the opportunity to meet their counterparts from other countries and ECU students from alternative disciplinary fields, broadening both their academic and cultural outlook. Buddies maximise the opportunities to develop their leadership, communication, problem-solving and team-building skills, all of which will give them a competitive edge in the employment market.

2017 WINNER: University of Western Australia – Career Mentor Link

Career Mentor Link (CML) program, accessible  to all  disciplines and undergraduate and postgraduate students, is one the longest running and largest university career mentoring program in Australia.

Commencing in 2003, 2562 students have benefited from the program that motivates and inspires them to engage with a professional mentor from their field of study or future work. Open to both international and domestic students, CML is extremely popular with international students with an average participation rate of 29% from 2008 -2017.  International student enrollments during this same period were  21%.

Participation in CML improves students interpersonal and communication skills as they are required to negotiate and communicate with mentors. International students become job-ready through gaining a better understanding of workplace culture and cultural literacy through visits to their mentor’s workplace, work shadowing and opportunities for work experience; and encourages students to appreciate learning from a variety of sources, including the experiences of those already established in careers. These opportunities outside the classroom contribute to a well-rounded graduate who is positioned to be an effective global citizen.