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CreatEquity Grants – Faculty led projects enhance student success, belonging

Kelly White

23 May 2023: The 2023 CreatEquity Grant recipients have been announced, with a raft of new and continuing projects set to benefit from the fund.

The CreatEquity Grants Scheme extends across all of the University of Canberra’s faculties and is aimed at promoting access to and participation in higher education for students from diverse backgrounds.

Grant recipients from 2022 were invited to present the results of their projects, with items from the Faculties of Business, Government and Law; Science and Technology; Arts and Design; and Education.

Empowering others to succeed – a vision and mission close to the heart of UC’s Faculty of Science and Technology. And that drove the faculty’s Laying the Foundations for Success in STEM Program, which was enabled by two successive CreatEquity Grants in 2021 and 2022.

The team – project leader and Associate Dean of Education Dr Tamsin Kelly, Senior Student Engagement and WIL Coordinator Caitlan Williamson, and Samantha Bronar, Student Engagement and WIL Advisor – aimed to increase retention and completion rates of students from equity backgrounds by supporting their increased participation in higher education.

Each student under the pilot program was provided with a starter kit and ongoing mentoring and academic support from designated Faculty STEM Success Advisors over the semester.

“We are incredibly passionate about student success,” Dr Kelly said. “Through this pilot program we aimed to support students in their transition into tertiary study, so they could put their best foot forward and embrace the multitude of opportunities within STEM.”

“We believe the provision of academic and peer support, as well as financial assistance, is crucial to break down barriers to accessing higher education, and to ensure students from equity groups succeed by getting the best start to their studies. Overall, providing this type of support empowers our students to not only succeed in their studies but to become future STEM advocates and leaders,” Ms Williamson said.

Alternative pathways are a huge step for ensuring people from diverse backgrounds can access higher education, but once they’re here – how are we supporting these students to succeed? That’s the question researchers from the Faculty of Education set out to answer.

Their project, titled Pathways and transitions for non-ATAR students to and through university and funded by a 2022 CreatEquity Grant, serves as both an empirical study to inform Student Equity and Participation practices at UC, and a starting point for future research in the area.

Dr Jenny Dean, Dr Phil Roberts and Ms Natalie Downes (currently a PhD student at UC) interviewed students and analysed other data from Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programs (HEPPP) to learn more about student experiences, completion and achievement. Dr Dean said that the data collected provides a promising way to assist the university to provide targeted support to students and to remove potential barriers students might have before or during their time at university.

“We know that a sense of belonging is a key factor in student retention, but through conversations with students, we found those who haven’t come through the traditional pathway straight from school sometimes lacked this connection with their university, particularly if they are from a rural background or are the first in their family to go to university,” Dr Dean said.

“Promisingly, we found that our support services are making a difference – when students accessed support, such as mentoring, support programs or direct contact with staff, this created a positive student experience.”

Other promising findings show that university entry through on-campus programs, particularly UC College, allows most students to attain the qualification they’re striving for.

The team are pleased to have secured a 2023 CreatEquity grant to fund the next leg of their project.

“We were thankful to have received a CreatEquity Grant for 2022, which funded the first stage of our research, and we look forward to continuing and expanding our work in 2023,” Dr Dean said.

“The next stage of our research will involve collaborating with staff in the Faculty of Business, Government and Law and the University of Canberra College to explore the experience of students who are currently studying in, or have graduated from, these areas of UC.”

Mara Eversons, Director of Student Life at UC, said the grants presented an opportunity for Faculties to provide specialised support, that enhances the outcomes and success of our students.

“Together we can rewrite the narrative of diverse student success and demonstrate positive change for UC and the communities we serve,” Ms Eversons said.

The 2023 Grant Recipients include:

Project title


Project team

Regional and ACT Schools Young Authors

Faculty of Arts and Design

Associate Professor Tony Eaton

Story Ground

Faculty of Arts and Design

Dr Jen Crawford, Dr Paul Collis, Andi Stapp-Gaunt

Fostering Discipline Specific outreach and exceptional student experience in BGL

Faculty of Business, Government and Law

Professor Lorne Cummings, Erina Fletcher, Associate Professor Cristy Clarke, Assistant Professor Barbara Voss, Dr Wayne Applebee, Professor Alison Gerard, Jayde Frail

From little things big things grow

Faculty of Business, Government and Law

Dr Raechel Johns, Dr Naomi Dale, Dr Jennifer Loh

Cultural Awareness in Work Integrated Learning

Careers UC

Bec Osborne, Kate Gemmell

Connecting through transition: Supporting students from Indigenous, rural, and low SES backgrounds to stay connected during transition from university to their communities

Collaboration between the Faculty of Business, Government and Law and the Faculty of Education

Robin Ladwig, Dr Naomi Dale, Dr Jenny Dean, Dr Phil Roberts, Natalie Downes