Ambassadors, leaders, advisors, mentors – consolidating peer support programs for a connected approach to student transition

Mr Chris Watson1

1University Of Southern Queensland, Darling Heights, Australia


The on-going scramble for student retention and success has seen an eclectic mix of peer-to-peer support programs emerge across the sector. These programs commonly align with a specific university process or discipline such as a student ambassador program for recruitment, a student advisors program for enrolment support, or student leaders and mentors embedded within specific courses for academic support. Unfortunately, these process driven or discipline based programs often exist in silos as a result of the institution’s departmental structure or a variety of funding intricacies. Often the outcome of this is a duplication of program objectives and difficulties sourcing student participants.

This presentation proposes aligning peer support programs with institutional student transition support planning. This planning utilises information about the institution’s unique student population to determine possible barriers to transition and respond by implementing proactive support programs into key transition support phases. By aligning peer support initiatives with transition phases, students will receive more holistic support, and achieving critical processes will become a by-product of the program rather than the main driver.


Chris joined the University of Southern Queensland in 2009 and began coordinating the university’s approach to student orientation in 2010. Since then, he has reinvigorated the university’s Orientation Strategy, and successfully created a whole-of-institution approach to orientation and transition activities.

In 2012, Chris spearheaded to the creation of USQ’s ‘Office of Student Life’, a student support department that is dedicated to enriching the personal, academic and professional growth of USQ Students through providing co-curricular and extra-curricular programs and events. While leading this department he also continues to develop the universities orientation strategy and performs research into institutional student transition planning.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education. We are focused on: The quality of the student experience Supporting and empowering students to achieve their educational and life goals Enhancing student wellbeing and development Improving student success and persistence Providing outreach to students at-risk Raising institutional student retention rates For more information, please visit the ANZSSA website at

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