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Using experience to help students

After being away from study for 20 years, Swinburne Online Student Administration Coordinator Jayne Schwalger, returned as a single mother of four children. Although study and motherhood was often difficult to juggle, Jayne says the experience helped shaped her career.

‘In 2002, I started studying a Bachelor of Social Work with the University of Auckland. At the time, I was a single mother with two of my four children under the age of five. My number one goal was to build a future for my family, and to be a positive role model for my kids.’

Jayne says listening to a chance radio program helped her make the decision to return to study to better her career options and the quality of life for her children.

‘I was driving when I heard a research report state that children from single parent households were more likely to get into drugs and alcohol, and probably end up in trouble, if not jail.

‘That’s when the reality of my family situation hit me, and I realized I had to get moving and plan for our future.  I remember thinking, I was damned if my kids were going to become a faceless statistic on some government data base,’ Jayne says.

After completing her degree, Jayne worked for six years at the same University mentoring students using her firsthand knowledge to connect and help them reach their tertiary goals.

‘I learned early while studying that although there was support available, it was difficult to access it and I didn’t have the time to find what I needed. When the tables turned and it was my turn to help others, often in the same situation I had been in, I knew how to reach out to them.’

Jayne quickly built a reputation of support services at the University, by getting the word out on what was available and connecting personally to students.

‘Every student has the same goal, no matter what their background. No one signs up for study with the intention to fail. They all want to succeed, but sometimes things get in the way, life gets complicated, and blurs the drive to realising those goals at times,’ Jayne says.

‘Part of my job then, was to get students to remember why they began studying and to help them find a way to do it. I try to do the same here at Swinburne Online. Some students don’t know what support they have so it’s part of my role to bring the support to them.’

Jayne is now part of a team at Swinburne Online that assist students who want to withdraw from study. She works to find out why a student would want to stop studying and helps them realise they have other options.

She has been successful using her past experience to better connect with students and guide them towards available support services.

‘Our students aren’t able to come on campus and ask for help, and that in itself is a reality our students find challenging at times.  We have to reach out to them and do that bit extra to make them feel supported.’

‘When you enrol to study, it’s to finish that degree you’ve always wanted, move up in your career or  be a positive role model. Some students get discouraged when the going gets tough and they need encouragement and support from us, to help them achieve their goals.

‘I’m here working alongside a really great team, to call them up and let them know we’re here. Our students are studying online and that one phone call can really save someone from giving up their goal entirely.’