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Student having a laughThursday 25 October 2018 10:21am

Office of Student Success image
From left to right: Maya Turner; Deputy Head of the Locals Programme and Student Success Researcher Leaders, Rebecca Bird, Jacques van der Meer, Nicola Beatson, Damian Scarf and foreground, Stephen Scott, Head of Student Success.

The University of Otago has taken another purposeful step in supporting the success of its students by creating the Office of Student Success in the Student and Academic Services Division.

The Office of Student Success has a University-wide mandate to investigate and trial initiatives to improve student success. The office will work collaboratively across the University, with the Office of Funding and Planning, Quality Advancement Unit, Residential Colleges, Academic Divisions, the new Shared Services and OUSA to fulfil its mandate.

Leading the team will be the current Director of the First Year Experience, and Locals Programme, Dr Stephen Scott, who moves into the new role of Head of Student Success.

“The aim for me is that every student is supported and I see engagement with learning as a key factor. With 'Early Course Engagement' projects we can identify students who may be struggling, make contact with them early-on to proactively support the challenges they may be facing,” Dr Scott says.

Dr Scott's data and evidence-based initiatives are helping lift the bar at Otago, with a focus on engagement and identifying common stumbling blocks that students often face.

“We want to support students to be successful, recognising success is different for different people – for some it's an A, for some it's a pass, for others it's working out what to do with their life. Interactions and interventions initiated for first-year students are having a positive effect on student success. We're not changing the student, but helping students by getting them pointed to the right support services,” he says.

Of Ngāti Whātua and Te Uri O Hau descent, Dr Scott began his professional life at Otago as a teacher in Zoology, then worked as the Associate Dean (Māori) in the Sciences Division, before being the Director of First Year Experience at the start of 2016. That position has now morphed into the Head of Student Success with the development of the Office of Student Success.

The Office will be supported by a team of student success research leaders. One from each academic division; Nicola Beatson from the Otago Business School, Dr Rebecca Bird from the Division of Health Sciences, Dr Damian Scarf from the Division of Sciences and Associate Professor Jacques van der Meer from the Division of Humanities.

“These four academic leaders bring extensive research-based knowledge in the area of student success, performance and engagement to the Office. Utilising their broad skill-sets is a great example of the University harnessing and capitalising on the depth of knowledge we have available to us. Their expertise will be invaluable as we look to equip each student at Otago with the tools they need to get the most from their time here,” Dr Scott says.

Dr Scott will still be fully involved in first-year experience. He will deliver UNIO101 University transition and success presentation, which reached over 2,000 first-year students over Academic Orientation week this year, continue to support the online transition resource, UNIO101 Getting Started at Otago, and continue to act as the Head of the Locals Programme, which is now part of his Office and supports first-year students living in the local community (flatting, boarding or living at home).

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Vernon Squire, says the new Office of Student Success is the University's next step in ensuring every single student at Otago has the greatest opportunity to succeed as they mature during their most formative and influential years. Having watched the Office grow from the pilot initiative focussing on first-year transition, he is excited with this new extension targeting all years of study, while still recognising the importance of the first few months at University in determining future success.

“While the primary aim is to help our own Otago students to achieve the absolute best they can by putting in place solutions that lead to the best outcomes, the Office has been constructed to learn from good practice at other Institutions and to share our successful interventions in the academic literature. I am very excited by this new venture, especially because of the quality and diverse skill set and experience of the new team led by Dr Scott,” Professor Squire says.

For more information please, contact:

Dr Stephen Scott
Head of Student Success
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 8824

Mark Hathaway
Senior Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Mob 021 279 5016

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