Shawna Lavis, Victoria University
Mentor Programs and Student Engagement

My current role as the ILC coordinator is secondment, I am a classroom teacher. I have lived in several places throughout my life and have been ‘the new kid’ many times. Thus I feel I have some small understanding of how our international students feel about being in a new country with new values, language, and education system. I feel the interactions students have in the classroom with other students may not be meaningful, deep or foster a sense of belonging, as language practice is often role-playing and answering questions based on the information given. According to Arthur (2017), when students are given opportunities to interact on a level deep enough to foster intellectual and social engagement, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging in the host institution. As Victoria University is a smaller centre the role of the ILC coordinator is vast. I am responsible for academic support, providing information about self-study and student engagement. Furthermore, as a result of being a smaller centre, there is not a large budget for student engagement, so I have to be creative in the activities I run. Thinking of the student experience, what better way is there to discover what students expect then by going directly to the source? In early 2018 I decided to start a student mentor program at VU English. I wanted to make the role of student mentor something that was desirable as the mentors are not paid I had to come up with something unique. I decided to present the opportunity to become a mentor like a real job. I took resumes, contacted successful candidates, and set up panel interviews. The students we ‘hired’ had a new sense of purpose in the centre and it was a successful pilot program. Their relationships with each other bloomed, and I watched their confidence grow. My presentation will focus on student engagement and how the mentor program has brought a sense of community to our centre.

After graduating from the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Shawna Lavis began a career in ESL in Japan in 2005. She has been working at Victoria University in Melbourne since 2012. During her time at Victoria University she has spent most of her time teaching. She is currently the acting ILC coordinator. Shawna has a special interest in student engagement outside of the classroom and has been running a successful engagement program at VU English. She feels the student experience extends far beyond the classroom and has been working on creating a community at VUE.