How Emma is making a difference at Deakin – and how you can, too!
At Deakin, we want to include the student voice in all that we do – from academic programs and student support to governance and extracurricular and social activities.
Our Students as Partners model recognises that you – our students – have unique perspectives and expertise to contribute, and that everyone benefits when we collaborate and learn from each other. We actively seek student involvement in the thinking, planning and implementation of programs and initiatives across the uni.
But how do you get involved in these kinds of activities, and what’s it like to work with University leaders on high-level projects that affect the entire Deakin community?
Emma Stott-Thornton is a student leader who’s passionate about health and mental health. She has been actively involved in the development of the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy – a major Deakin initiative designed to help our students thrive, both academically and personally, by nurturing and promoting personal health and wellbeing.
We chatted to Emma about why she wanted to contribute to this piece of work and what she’s learnt along the way.
What are you studying, at which campus and how far into your degree are you?
I’m doing a double degree in arts/science, majoring in dance and natural history at Burwood Campus. I started at Deakin in mid-2015, but have not taken a straight route through my degree. I often study part-time; I changed degrees and purposely didn’t transfer all of my units across so I could study more; I intermitted; and I went overseas twice, once for a whole academic year.
How and why did you come to be involved in contributing to the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy?
I am generally interested in ways to get involved in university life, I know it’s a cliché, but the more you get involved the more you’ll get out of your time at uni. I’m also particularly interested in health and mental health, and contributing to that area at the university. I can’t remember whether it was before becoming a Wellbeing Ambassador or not, but I saw an opportunity to be involved in the preliminary meetings for this strategy and decided to attend. I wanted to give a perspective of a current student with a mental health condition.
What kind of time commitment did you have to make and how did you find the process?
It’s not a huge time commitment, maybe a few hours once a month, and also it doesn’t really matter for me so much when I’m enjoying what I’m doing. The process has been really interesting. It’s a great way to meet other staff and students across the university as well as being very empowering, as the staff/student hierarchy disappears and everybody’s voice, individual expertise and experience is valued.
What skills did you need and did you learn anything new?
Strong communication and listening skills are good to have when doing this work and engaging with others. I have certainly learnt how strategy documents are made, and the stages and processes that a set of documents based on an idea progresses through, and the language used in these processes. Also meeting other people from across the university has given me more of an insight into how the university works as a whole.
How did you ensure that your voice fully represented a diverse student population?
Through being a student at Deakin for quite some time, as well as having been a volunteer and staff in various roles, I’ve met a lot of people either studying, teaching and/or working at Deakin. I also really enjoy studying across faculties and meeting people from different faculties who may think or are being taught in very different ways. And also through my work at Deakin, diversity is part of the training.
What were your goals for this project and were they met?
I wanted to be heard and share what I had experienced, and also to hear what was already happening and what could happen in the future. I wanted to be involved and I certainly felt invited to do that.
Would you recommend this kind of role to other students?
Definitely, it is really great to be more involved in all areas of your education and university life. Bring your unique knowledge and be an active part of how the university operates. There are so many great opportunities to do this at Deakin.
Keen to contribute to a Deakin student partnership project?
If you’d like to learn more about Students as Partners, and co-create ideas and solutions with staff to enhance the student experience at Deakin, just complete this short online form. Your information will be stored with the Office of the Dean of Students, and you’ll be contacted when new opportunities or initiatives arise.