2021 WA International Education Program of the Year

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

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.

This award was proudly sponsored by:

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.

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.