Celebrating Peer Learning at UNSW


Published 1 December 2023

The Inaugural UNSW Peer Learning Festival provided an energising and collaborative environment for students and staff to celebrate all things peer support at UNSW. 

The UNSW Peer Learning Festival showcased the broad range of peer programs that support our students, providing a forum for student leaders to network and learn more about peer-support programs at UNSW and to undertake professional development.

Participants represented the breadth of peer-learning programs at UNSW, including Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) programs and peer-mentoring programs coordinated by clubs and societies, faculties and central portfolios. 

Attendees were very engaged throughout, with many continuing to connect and network right up until the close of the day’s proceedings. “I enjoyed interacting with mentors from different programs, learning about their experiences and understanding how to use experience from these programs in interviews,” said one participant.

Participants chatting at the Peer Learning Festival Photo

The role of peer mentors

The festival was opened by Professor Alex Steel, Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor Education and Student Experience, who spoke about the importance for the university to support peer-to-peer conversations and the value of these programs for both mentors and mentees. 

UNSW Alumna Kerry-Anne Johnston, Founder and Director of the Bayard Foundation and Chair of Jaycar Electronics, gave an inspiring keynote address, reflecting on her own experiences and the learnings from these.

Kerry-Anne highlighted the importance of mentoring through all levels of education and professional life. “Mentoring [being a mentor and a mentee] in the programs that you are doing here at university will put you in good stead [for your future professional careers].”

Flash talks and stalls

Some of the day’s highlights were the student-staffed stalls and the flash talks delivered by student representatives from a broad range of peer-learning programs. There was a highly supportive atmosphere, with participants keen to learn about each other’s programs. 

Programs represented included:

ActivateUNSW  Let's CommUNIcate! 
BITSA  Library Peer Mentors
Business School PASS Program  Personalised English Language Enhancement (PELE) course 
Cultural Mentor Program  Start@UNSW PeerMentoring 
CSESoc Peer Mentoring  UNSW PASS Program
Law & Justice Peer Leader Program  

    Check out some of the live action here

    Photo of participants at Peer Learning Festival Photo

    Professional-development opportunities

    Attendees were offered several professional-development workshops aimed at fostering peer mentoring and leadership skills. Georgina Barratt-See, UNSW alumna and Manager of Peer Learning programs at UTS, along with two UTS PASS Leaders, delivered a highly engaging session titled “Reaching out to students”, based on the work of Dr Alisa Percy. Participants commented that they learned different principles they can apply to their mentoring and “how to bring energy to a classroom”.

    Career Coach Katherine Pick from UNSW Employability delivered a popular workshop that helped students to identify and reflect on transferable skills from their peer-mentoring roles in job applications. Karen Yuen and Rainbow We from the Health Promotions Unit provided invaluable mental-wellbeing training in “How to help a friend”.

    Two participants talking at the Peer Learning Festival

    Collaborative atmosphere

    Some parts of the day were also open to academic and professional staff members, giving them the chance to foster new connections with students from various peer-learning programs. The Student Wellbeing Community of Practice co-hosted a student panel discussion titled “Building connections through PASS”, where student leaders from the Business School and central UNSW PASS programs spoke about their roles in supporting students academically and in building a sense of belonging.

    Organisers and attendees were particularly impressed with the supportive and collaborative tone of the festival, which was a great example of collaboration between the PASS (Student Success) and Peer Connections (Student Life) teams, as well as academic staff from the Student Wellbeing Community of Practice. 

    Interested in participating?

    Plans are underway to build on the success of the Peer Learning Festival in 2024, and we welcome anyone interested in participating to get in touch via pass@unsw.edu.au or peermentoring@unsw.edu.au.


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