An intimate student experience

A message from Provost Professor Belinda Tynan:

As I enter my third month at ACU, I am energised by the many positive impressions and ideas for our future growth that have been shared with me. I believe we can sit in the top quartile of universities in everything we do, and one of the areas I’d love to see ACU focus on is offering an intimate and contemporary student experience.

Teams across ACU are already working to create this sense of intimacy for students. Among the examples I’ve seen is the new pedagogy we’ve implemented at Blacktown to enhance the student experience and engagement, and efforts to foster a sense of belonging on campus through the many activities our students can engage in.

But rather than speak at you about this goal, I’d like to share two valuable perspectives with you. I asked Director, Office of Student Success (OSS) Jane Caton and Dr Ann-Marie Gibson, Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology in Blacktown, about how they interpret intimacy, what it means in their context, and what they’re doing to create an intimate student experience.

Intimacy across student life

Intimacy, according to Jane Caton, is a two-way thing. “It doesn’t just happen. It’s something that grows and matures and evolves. You cannot experience intimacy unless you feel safe and wanted and heard and respected. You cannot experience intimacy if you feel you don’t belong.

“It’s so important that students feel that they belong at ACU and that we really want them to be here. It’s important that they know we care about them and about what they think. It’s important that they know they can speak and be heard, and that their words and intentions will be respected.”

Jane says the next step towards intimacy is providing appropriate, welcoming, nurturing physical and digital spaces where students can meet likeminded people. Finally, we need to encourage students to develop and grow; to flourish in whatever way is meaningful to them.

Together, she says, these elements encourage a familiarity and ease among students of their surroundings. These also lead to students knowing that what they do in study is supported by the rest of the university – there is a connectedness.

One way OSS is working to achieve this sense of intimacy is by listening to students through consultation and engagement with campus student associations, ACUNSA, focus groups, clubs and societies, and SSAF surveys. “Student leaders are increasingly involved in decision-making and are consulted formally and informally,” Jane says. “This has fostered trust which, along with belonging and respect, is another essential element in true intimacy.”

Connection in the classroom

For Dr Ann-Marie Gibson, an intimate student experience is “one where the student feels a sense of purpose, value, and connection with their social environment and the physical environment”.

“Creating intimacy in a contemporary context is about ensuring we place students at the forefront of these developments,” she says. “They are the gatekeepers to the knowledge and perspectives we need to shape the contemporary student experience at ACU, allowing us to celebrate the diversity of the student population and their varied and ever-changing educational expectations.”

Ann-Marie and her colleagues, together with the Learning and Teaching Centre, are working on a project to enhance the student experience and engagement at Blacktown Campus. There are several aspects to this, she explains.

“Within one of the exercise science units, we have incorporated an early, low-stake assessment with immediate feedback to develop a sense of purpose to their learning early in the semester.

“Exercise science students at Blacktown, unlike those at other campuses, are taught exclusively by me as the lecturer in charge. In addition to online learning, we meet face to face in weekly tutorial groups of 15-20 students, where students can develop a connection with me and their peers. I also offer students regular one-to-one tutor support to further develop the intimate experience.”

As you can see, some excellent work is being done at ACU to better the student learning experience.

This is an ongoing conversation – I look forward to engaging further with you on it.

Blacktown Day One
Students on campus at Blacktown

The following slideshow controls change the content above and below. Information is displayed below the controls while video content plays above the video controls.

Service Central

Visit Service Central to access Corporate Services.

Other service contacts

Learning and Teaching
Request Something

Make a request for services provided by Corporate Services.

Request something
Knowledge base

Find answers to frequently asked questions 24/7.

See Knowledge Base