W58 – Meet Our Mentors: Student-Designed and Delivered Transition Mentoring and Community Building through Social, Academic and Integrated Service Provision

Room E – TUESDAY 13:00-14:00

Presentation

Workshop – 60 minutes

Kerry Gough, Neil Hollins, Ross Whitehouse, Emily Brammeier

Birmingham City University

Summary

The Birmingham City University Level Up programme features a series of enmeshed university life hacks to enable success that have been co-designed by our students, and our academic and support staff, whilst working alongside our Students’ Union. These interventions enhance our students’ first year experience of academic and social life with us through the provision of pre-entry transition mentoring, active inductions and welcome events, embedded personal tuition, integrated welfare support, and academic and social mentoring interventions. Our workshop offers an opportunity to work with a team of staff and students from our Level Up programme in order to consider its potential for development and use within your home institutions and contexts. Together, we level up!

Abstract

The Level Up programme and its cycle of university life hacks, or short-cuts for getting the best out of that experience, represents the result of a student designed and delivered series of interventions which have been implemented in order to aid in enhancing our students’ experience of life at Birmingham City University. These are firmly embedded as a core part of the social and academic life of individual schools and faculties across Birmingham City University and include pre-entry transition mentoring with our Level Up Venture Mentors who are current students of the course and co-designers in the Level Up content. Together, we have developed exciting, active inductions and welcome events, personal tuition and academic mentoring interventions, as well as integrated welfare support and embedded personal tutoring activity. In our true Birmingham City University partnership ethos, this presentation will be co-delivered by staff and students who are currently participating in that process.

Building upon the findings of What Works (Thomas, 2012), our Level Up transition programme locates the responsibility for nurturing our students’ retention and success firmly within the academic environment. Through the creation of an enhanced sense of belonging and a clear focus upon engaging our students within both the social and academic lives of our Schools, each of these interventions simultaneously support us in the challenges represented by financial pressures to hit student retention targets, an educational need to build in personalised tuition, easing pressure on academic staff with growing student numbers and, in the UK, increased expectations from our student body in response to the student fee increase.

However, rather than emerging as an institutional imposition from above, our partnership working ethos has fostered the organic development of these integrative transition programmes at grass roots level. Designed collaboratively by teams of students, academics and support staff, along with representatives from our Students’ Union and Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, we have worked together to develop activities that support the on-going transition of our students throughout life in the School and beyond. Our current students, as Level Up Venture Mentors (or LUVMs as they have affectionately come to be known), have played an instrumental role in this transition activity. In their involvement in the programme’s design and delivery, they have acted as the binding force and inspirational design glue to support the on-going transition of our students’ lives.

Our LUVMs were key in our induction and transition activities, acting as our new students’ mentors, designing and monitoring our social media-managed induction treasure hunt, planning and hosting our welcome tea party, as well as providing on-going support throughout the first year through the implementation of a series of embedded workshops based around the academic, social and administrative issues faced by our new students.

Our EFYE workshop, delivered by staff and students working on the Level Up project, will share the design process surrounding some of those programme interventions, our experiences of delivering them, how we dealt with the difficulties, the solutions that worked for us, as well as sharing some of the impacts and early wins that we have seen as a result.

Having shared our own approach and resources, the majority of this session will be given over to examining how participating delegates might rework some of these materials to fit their own institutional and course-specific situations. With our design team of staff and students on hand to help, participation in our workshop will offer an opportunity to consider your own institutional context and to work together on tailoring potential transition mentoring interventions with our university life hack team. Offering expertise in transition mentoring, personal tutoring support, exciting inductions, embedded service provision, academic intervention and the social integration of our students, working with our existing students and Level Up Venture Mentors, together, we level up!

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