Understanding the Student Journey to Success – Engagement, Intervention and Retention Strategies Symposium | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Understanding the Student Journey to Success – Engagement, Intervention and Retention Strategies Symposium

25-27 October 2022 | Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort and Online

About the Symposium

In recent years, universities have identified student journey mapping as a key discipline to monitor interventions with commencing cohorts and ensure their institution can implement best in sector practices. It is therefore an opportune moment for practitioners to meet to share ideas, processes and strategies that can improve the student experience while gaining valuable insights.

This symposium is the first of its type in Australia and New Zealand and brings university staff together in a practical setting to share their thoughts on how they engage with students to maximise their educational experience and to explore initiatives that positively impact student success and retention. A deliberate focus will be on the first-year experience, from accepting offers to post-census date and beyond. It is estimated about 100 delegates from across the 45 ANZ universities will be in attendance, with a similar number online. Presentations will be delivered throughout the symposium, although the emphasis will be around facilitated workshops that look at institutional approaches, practices, processes and systems.

The Symposium program will be organised according to four different phases of the first-year student journey. Each of the four phases will be headlined by a case study or panel discussion. Delegates will then have the chance to get hands-on in breakout sessions with their peers, enabling a deep dive into successful initiatives that have improved the experience across key periods including:

  • Offer and acceptance
  • Getting started and orientation activities
  • Week 1 through to Census
  • Student success and retention through first-year

A poster session will be provided that allows universities to highlight a business process, service or activity they offer to their students, enabling more detailed discussions with professional colleagues from other educational providers. A dedicated session looking at the Job-Ready Graduate legislation implications to the student journey is scheduled as are keynote addresses. Optional sponsor workshops for delegates, linked to the symposium theme will occur before the scheduled start to engage external thinking's.

This symposium is designed to be a hands-on, practical way of learning, where participants share and create best practice. The program is structured to enable us to hear from colleagues who are leading the way, or have practioner insights to inform how we might think about and influence student success, followed by deep dive sessions to discuss and explore current or potential initiatives we can take away and implement following the Symposium.

To get the most out of the day please come along prepared to:

Share what you are proud of – it might not be perfect right now, but what is working well? Bring examples of practical applications. For example, do you have student communications you could bring with you and show others during the workshops? Do you have examples of policies or procedures/flowcharts which others would benefit from seeing during the workshops, or you would like to improve and need help with?

Share your biggest challenges and concerns – what are the key things you really want to change, implement, progress, or learn more about? What could you take away from the Symposium that would help make an immediate impact to your students’ success?

Ask questions – what do you need or want to know to progress student success at your institution? Think ahead about all the questions you have and want to get answers for

Bring your business cards/contact details – How will you connect and create an ongoing network you can tap in to post the SJS2022

Have a great time – bring your neat casual attire, your enthusiasm and humour!

Who should attend?

As this is a practitioner-based symposium, it will be of value to university staff developing initiatives that support student experience, transition and success. Likely attendees will be:

  • Directors / Associate Directors of Student Services, Student Administration, Student Experience, International and Marketing
  • Managers / Project Managers responsible for student experience or success initiatives (from both a business and technology perspective)
  • Business improvement managers and specialists
Call for posters

The organising committee welcomes and encourages proposals from delegates wishing to present a poster at the Symposium. If you would like to present, please submit your poster to sjs2022@usc.edu.au by Wednesday 31 August. The brief for poster submissions can be found via the button below.


Tuesday 25 October

Pre-Conference Workshops, 1.30–3pm and 3.30–5pm
Cocktail Party commences at 6pm (to be confirmed)

Wednesday 26 October

Symposium commences at 8.30am, finishes at 5pm (to be confirmed)
Morning tea and lunch provided
Conference dinner commences at 6.30pm

Thursday 27 October

Symposium commences at 8.30am, finishes at 2.30pm
Morning tea and lunch provided


Download this year's program

2022 Program PDF (507 KB) (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)

Students on campus

Keynote Speaker, Dr Ella Kahu

Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand

Ella is an internationally recognised leader in student engagement research and her conceptual framework of student engagement is widely applied in practice and research. Her widely published research on student experiences followed a group of school leavers through their first year at USC. Ella's most recent publications explore first-year student engagement, student metaphors of learning and life, mechanism of student support, and student belonging. She is currently a Senior Lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

1. Promoting success and retention through partnership

Sarah Rose, Senior Manager, Student Transition and Retention, Australian Catholic University

Sarah has managed teams that are responsible for orientation, student leadership, and peer mentoring. She has been instrumental in evaluating and enhancing the student journey focussing on first-year student transition to higher education. Key to her work is the ongoing support for at-risk students. Sarah provides leadership and mentoring to student representatives and is enthusiastic about building their capacity as leaders. She works with both academic and co-curricular staff to promote strategies to enhance the successful transition to university and support throughout the first year.

2. Summer Start: transition powered by pan-university teams

Gemma Skipper, Summer Start Manager, The University of Auckland

Gemma is the Summer Start Manager at Waipapa Taumata Rau, the University of Auckland, where she has held a variety of roles over the past 7 years and previously held roles at Charles Sturt University and Unitec’s student association.

3. Enhancing the transition experience of university students in the orientation period

Mrs Valerie Cleary, Head of Services, Academic Learning Centre, CQUniversity

Valarie has been an educator in a range of contexts for 40 years. Val has worked as literacy educator developing strategies and resources to assist adult learners to improve writing skills in preparation for successful undergraduate study. In her work she considers the broad experiences, beliefs and values that the diverse learners at CQUniversity hold. She currently works with the School of Access Education Academic Learning Centre (ALC) as Head of Services, leading a team of advisers who provide undergraduate students with assistance to develop academic skills across academic writing, computing, science, mathematics and statistics disciplines.

Mr. Larry Webster, Mathematics and Statistics Discipline Coordinator, Academic Learning Centre, CQUniversity

Larry leads a team of professional and dedicated academics who support the numeracy needs of undergraduate students. In 2018, after identifying low retention rates in the Diploma of Nursing due to poor numeracy skills, Larry developed and delivered workshops that positively impacted students’ outcomes. These workshops and others are now embedded in units across five degrees. Larry also introduced numeracy workshops during orientation week. Larry’s passion is to increase students’ outcomes by building resilience and confidence in numeracy skills.

Ms Julie Hilton, Discipline Coordinator: Academic Communication/Academic Learning Advisor, CQUniversity

Julie has worked in the tertiary education sector for over 30 years, starting as a lecturer at the University of Queensland (UQ) in European and Asian history with a special focus on India. She then moved to the Academic Learning Skills area, as an Academic Learning Adviser in the Academic Learning Centre’s Academic Communications area. Over the last few years she has combined this role with her position as Discipline Coordinator for the Academic Communication’s team. Julie is particularly interested in the transition experience of new students into tertiary education and in developing a range of strategies to facilitate that transition.

4. Using a Community of Practice model to augment academic staff capabilities supporting students transition into their first year studies

Lynn Riddell, Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning, Faculty of Health Professor, Deakin University

Lynn is a committed educator with over 20 years experience within the higher education sector. She has worked in universities across New Zealand, United States of America and for the past 17 years, within Australia. Originally an educator and researcher in Nutrition Sciences, she is currently Associate Dean Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Health at Deakin University. As Associate Dean T&L she works to advance academic capabilities in learning design and delivery to ensure students experience a learning environment conducive to success. She aims foster teaching teams consisting of experts in learning design, academic skills development, digital education and discipline leads.

Janine McBurnie, Associate Head of School, School of Life and Environmental Science, Deakin University

Janine has worked in the higher education sector for over 25 years and is committed to making the student experience the best it can be. She is currently the Associate Head of School (Teaching and Learning) in the School of Life and Environmental Science and has been the Director of First Year in the Faculty of Science Engineering and the Built Environment for 4 years. Her overall aim is to support both educators and students, and to provide support to facilitate a positive experience throughout the student journey.

5. Te Herenga Waka

Angela Davies, Principal Advisor, Paerangi Totoko Centre for Student Success, Victoria University of Wellington

Angela Davies is Principal Advisor, Student Success and is on the leadership team of Tītoko - Centre for Student Success. Angela is the architect of Paerangi, and works with professional and academic staff to align the whole-of-institution student success activities. Angela is also undertaking doctoral research in the same field through Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence.

Adrienne McGovern-Faircloth, Associate Director, Student Success, Victoria University of Wellington

Adrienne is Associate Director, Student Success and is on the leadership team of Tītoko - Centre for Student Success. Adrienne has many years’ leadership experience in the higher education institutions and was the business-lead on the development of the new holistic advising model.

6. Retention – Support and services offered during students’ first year of undergraduate studies

Danielle Clarkson, Academic Adviser (ALC), Associate Lecturer (STEPS), School of Access Education, Central Queensland University

Danielle Clarkson works in the School of Access Education at CQUniversity where she provides academic literacy support for undergraduate students. Danielle is an embedded academic literacy skills unit coordinator in several nursing units, and she assists in the online learning design and training of embedded unit coordinators. Her research interests are in enabling education and digital transformation.

7. Frameworks to support retention

Mara Eversons, Director, Student Life, University of Canberra

Mara is the Director of Student Life at the University of Canberra, is an experienced and respected leader within her field and prides herself on her positive and open leadership skills. Mara maintains her relationships with colleagues around the university by assisting all staff to work across units collaboratively. Mara is proud to be seen as a role model by her colleagues and enjoys mentoring and providing encouragement to staff across the University.

Mara is the Deputy Chair of the Respect Now Always Committee, working to improve safety, respect and inclusion within the University community, in part by shifting norms, attitudes and behaviours to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Organising Committee members
Australian Catholic University

Elizabeth Moon

Elizabeth Moon – Associate Director User Experience, Student Administration

Liz is the Associate Director User Experience at Australian Catholic University, where she leads a portfolio of operational teams and projects in the Student Administration Division with a focus on improving the staff and student user experience. Liz’s portfolio at ACU includes enrolment and student records, fees, scholarships, course completion, graduation and protocol and higher degree research administration. Liz also leads cross-university student experience research and initiatives, and oversees major change projects to improve the student key moments in the student journey. She is passionate about ensuring staff can access user insights to drive day-to-day interactions through to major change projects.

Flinders University

Annika Danielsson

Annika Danielsson – Director, Student Administration Services

Annika has recently been appointed as the Senior Director, Student Experience & Management at Flinders University. As such, she is responsible for overseeing the end-to-end student experience from a services, planning and administration perspective for areas including student recruitment, admissions, student administration services, health, counselling and disability services, and student engagement and success activities including those of the Student Association. Annika has 18 years of management and leadership experience in higher education as well as expert delivery of innovation and change initiatives in a university context. She is an active member of sector-wide initiatives and has established a broad network of contacts particularly through her involvement with the Heads of Student Administration (HoSA) Board. She is also a non-executive Board member of Higher Education Services (HES).

University of the Sunshine Coast

Tony Reed

Tony Reed – Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services and Engagement

Tony is the Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services & Engagement at the University of the Sunshine Coast, a role he has performed since February 2016. Prior to that Tony worked at 3 metropolitan universities in Sydney and Melbourne in similar roles. Tony is an inaugural board member and current board director for the Heads of Student Administration (HoSA) Inc and the Director of Engagement of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association (ANZSSA).

University of South Australia

Vanessa Matthews – Students and Research Registrar, Student and Academic Services

Vanessa is the University of South Australia’s Students and Research Registrar and has extensive experience in student and academic services, human resource management, and customer service. Vanessa currently leads a large student services portfolio across 6 campuses including scholarships and prizes, student administration services and support, research student administration, student reporting and systems, and graduations and records. Vanessa has worked for UniSA for 20 years and is currently the elected Professional Staff Member on UniSA's Council, holds a Master of Human Resource Management and a Bachelor of Arts, and is an active contributor in the Australian and New Zealand higher education sector.


Super Early Bird registration closes Tuesday 14 June.

Early Bird registration closes Friday 12 August.

Register for this year's Symposium.

Platinum sponsors
GFP Events

With more than 50 years' experience in the Graduation service industry, GFP Events offer a comprehensive range of services. We recognise that Graduation represents the culmination of years of study and effort, and Graduates deserve the best experience possible for their momentous occasion.
With this in mind, we ensure each of the services we provide represents value and relevance.

It starts with Pre-Ceremony Planning which consists of an Online Portal system accessible to all Graduates where they will be guided – step-by-step -through Registration, Academic Dress Hire, Ticket allocations, and any photography or other services for Grad Day.

Academic Dress is an important part of each Graduation and with our personalised Fitting service and long-term knowledge of all components, we ensure Graduates are dressed correctly for their ceremony.
GFP value the tradition and guarantee not to miss a beat when it comes to making each Grad feel special for their big moment on stage.

Before or after the ceremony Graduates and their families can visit our studios, and have professional photographers capture this milestone.
GFP do not only offer Studio and Stage Photography but VIP and Roving Photography as well as printing services.

In addition, we source and supply top quality Graduation Keepsakes – from cute bears to high quality frames & plaques – with many options to choose from.

We are committed to enhancing the Graduate experience with positive memories for thousands of Graduates and their families, easing pressures for our University partners by carefully pre-planning logistics and executing the event professionally.

With GFP now servicing around 100,000 Graduates per year, we are not only the largest provider of Graduation Events, but also the most trusted partner for many Universities with an overall satisfaction rating of 4.5 out of 5 from our recent Partner Survey.

KPMG Australia


Gold sponsors
Hague Australia

Hague Australia is a trusted business partner to over 90% of Australian Universities offering a range of secure certificate printing, graduation folders, tubes, and dynamic software solutions.

Hague Australia’s certificate infill service manages the infill of Testamurs, Certificates, cover letters and folders. The infill service can take away the pain of in-house print services. We can provide a full-time infill service or as some Universities do, for busier times such as Graduation?

Our software solutions help Universities achieve efficiencies using the market-leading QLess student ‘virtual’ queue management solution.

QLess is changing the way that student service centres operate. QLess allows students to interact with the University Student Service Centre from their mobile phone, QLess App, University App, University web site, touch-screen kiosk, Concierge App, or real-time Appointment Booking. Providing real-time service data and student feedback helps University Student Services improve the interaction experience.

Hague Australia is part of Hague Group with a group turnover of over $100m.



Make Studios


Reed Graduations

Reed Graduation Services (RGS), one of Australia’s most respected graduation service providers, is proud to sponsor your SJS2022 conference.

RGS provide a one-stop-shop, all-encompassing service suite to ensure smooth operations before, during and after graduation day. RGS’s proprietary Gradpak web solution, facilitates the student’s graduation booking requirements, whilst digitising the attendance processing on graduation day. This along with the company’s range of popular Photography, Livestream, and Merchandise services, offers clients the confidence and peace of mind of dealing with a single vendor.

Through a process of continuous improvements, adaptability, and willingness to embrace innovative technology, RGS offers an exceptionally comprehensive solution to the graduation needs of universities and other institutions. Our close-knit team are committed to achieving consistently high-quality graduation services in an enjoyable, friendly, and collaborative environment.

Please meet with Shamal and Simon at the RGS stand, who look forward to highlighting how we can partner with you for your next event and view our range of renewable regalia. There will be live demonstrations of our end-to-end software throughout the conference. For additional information, please visit our Reed Graduations website.

Silver Sponsor

The Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET) collaborates strategically with the National Disability Coordination Officer (NDCO) Program to ensure that people with disability have equitable opportunity to access, participate and achieve their goals in tertiary education and subsequent employment. This is achieved by:

  • Providing information and guidelines to support professional staff, educators, students
  • Facilitating knowledge exchange on inclusive practice
  • Building disability confidence through eLearn programs
  • Consulting with and partnering on research to inform policy and practice
  • Coordinating and testing the efficacy of pilot programs and initiatives

ADCET and NDCO are funded by the Australian Government Department of Education.


Sponsorship packages can be organised directly via contact with the organising committee. Discussion on Sponsorship Booth position will be determined in due course, with preference given based on the class of sponsorship. A tax invoice will be issued and payment is due within 20 business days of your submission.

Please contact SJS2022@usc.edu.au for any sponsorship queries or call Tony Reed, Academic Registrar and Director, Student Services at USC on +61 7 5430 1212.

Poster Session presenters
Session Facilitator, Dr Catherine Picton

Student Success and Development Cooridinator, Student Services and Engagement, University of the Sunshine Coast

Cat Picton is a Student Success and Development Coordinator at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her research interests are the influence of student support on the experience of university, academic student success advising, and student engagement. She has been involved in several research projects investigating equity and the Australian regional context of higher education. In her current professional role, Cat is implementing a whole of university, embedded approach to student support focussing on student development of co-curricular skills and competencies.

1. Designing and delivering a student-centric financial support program to support success

Dr Lydia Dutcher, Head of Student Life, University of Sydney

Lydia leads teams that design, deliver, promote and evaluate support and co-curricular programs for diverse cohorts of students across their student life journeys.

Sarah Morris, Student Life Lead, University of Sydney

Sarah oversees the Student Journey and Engagement team to ensure the timely, effective provision of student support programs, initiatives, events and communications across the student journey, including transition and financial support.

2. Stackable Learning: Designing new student journeys to accommodate emerging markets and models

Hannah Brown, Manager, Communications and Partnership, Global Studio, Deakin University

I am an impact-driven strategic innovation and change leader managing communications and partnerships across innovative EdTech projects. My focus is on championing some of the biggest strategic programs for the university, leading a team to design and implement new learning experiences for new emerging markets locally and globally.

I identify as an intrapreneur and with my experience, I hope to continue to support human-centred services by designing innovative solutions that leverage technology, commercial viability and provide desirable impact for the stakeholders they serve.



Accommodation is not included. A special conference rate of A$309* per night (without breakfast) has been arranged with the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort. Please complete the booking form and return it directly to the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort to receive this rate.

* Please note there are limited rooms are available at this special price.

Upcoming Sunshine Coast events

Why not stay longer on the Sunshine Coast and enjoy the natural beauty and ambience of Australia’s most magnificent coastal and hinterland environment. More information can be obtained from the Visit Sunshine Coast website.

Note: The Noosa Triathlon is being held from 26-30 October and details are available on the Noosa Tri website.


The Sofitel Noosa is located just 35 minutes from the Sunshine Coast airport or is a 1hr 40min drive from Brisbane Airport.


Tuesday 25 - Thursday 27 October 2022. Please check back for updates.


Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, Noosa Heads, Queensland

Got questions? 

Contact Tony Reed, SJS Organising Committee Member

Email: SJS2022@usc.edu.au
Tel: +61 7 5430 1212