Increasing Student Engagement through Peer-to-Peer Pathway Program and Universal Design in Wraparound Programs

The GSO project is making student mobility financially feasible to previously excluded student demographics.
UNB’s inaugural year of GSO funding for short-term, structured summer abroad opportunities were successful in engaging students from the GSO target groups and from all academic disciplines. This first post-COVID/GSO cohort returned home with heightened self-confidence in their ability to travel and live abroad.

Year 1 program feedback and our own observations and experiences confirmed that GSO target group students require encouragement and support beyond what was considered acceptable/adequate pre-COVID. It also became clear that our promotional campaigns fail to engage all GSO eligible students and persuade them that an international experience is attainable, beneficial, and manageable.

To address these challenges, we propose a restructuring of our overall mobility preparation to systematically apply universal design principles in recognition of the diversity of student characteristics (i.e. learning preferences, mental health, travel experience and socio-economic status). A universal design philosophy centers learning around principles of accessibility, useability, and inclusivity.

Activities / Project Components

• Research and design a student-centric model that creates a positive and flexible learning environment and makes learning goals achievable by students of diverse characteristics and abilities.
• Create a Peer-to-Peer Pathway Program with a team of salaried, well-trained Student Peers (GSO alumni/international students) who can draw on their own travel experiences in guidance of others. As trusted and relatable role models, Student Peers can play a critical role in engaging and empowering future GSO participants, in keeping them retained after application and in internationalizing our campuses through this process. Student Peers will work closely with future student participants, who can rely on knowledgeable and experienced Student Peers in a safe space for tailored support as needed.
• Enhance wraparound programs and upgrade to emphasize active learning in small group settings. Our approach will be scenario-based with fictitious students who run into relevant and commonly encountered situations abroad. Outbound students will learn to solve these challenges using analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Our innovation elements include:
• Re-design of our wraparound programming to incorporate universal design elements that are usable, accessible, and inclusive.
• Establishment of a Peer-to-Peer Pathway Program and training of Student Peers (international students/alumni) who are readily available to mentor, advise and act as a sounding board for GSO participants.
• Design and delivery of relevant and impactful promotional campaigns which are student-focused to inspire students to apply to study abroad.

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