Staff and student collaborations deliver successful blended O-Week experience

Hundreds of staff, students and volunteers worked together to deliver a COVID-safe O-Week to welcome our newest cohort of students.  

Term 1 launched with a blended program of online and in-person events on campus. Everyone was determined to overcome any challenge COVID threw our way, working hard knowing that our united goal was to create an exceptional student experience at UNSW.   

Covidsafe OWeek 2021









Our students were keen to get involved and connected, and they were willing to do this any way they could. People wore masks, socially distanced and checked in via Service NSW QR codes to the 100+ events on campus. 

Faculty staff were willing to trial a new centralised model of delivery. They entrusted the Student Life team to deliver alongside them, a cohesive and engaging student experience.  

The new Division of External Engagement team were willing to provide an exceptional amount of support to ensure all the bespoke faculty needs were met. 

Academic staff were open to trialling new approaches – offering a combination of activities, such as livestreaming and recording welcomes for later viewing, and supported the COVID requirements for all teaching spaces across campus. This meant that every student had an opportunity to engage in O-Week regardless of where they are in the world.  

Arc worked hand in glove with the Pro Vice-Chanceller Education and Student Experience (PVCESE) portfolio to ensure that there was consistent and enforceable COVID messaging and plans in place for students on campus. 

“Because of all the above UNSW welcomed just as many students online during the week as we did on campus. Students had the ability to meet their faculty staff in person and online. Students could find a peer support from anywhere in the world, not just anywhere on campus. And students made friends locally and globally,” said Natalie Nickson, Head of Student Life.  

This year due to COVID, the iconic tents down the University’s mall were replaced with three Arc zones with stalls for students to interact with. Each zone required a check in and often a short wait time to keep numbers at a safe capacity. Over the week we had over 50,000 check-ins across the three zones, suggesting 16,000 unique visits to the stall areas.  

Arc's eye-catching yellow shirts, worn by 180 volunteers, welcomed 3,303 students onto campus tours, in person and virtually. This army of helpers showed students their faculties and schools, as well as great places to eat and get coffee, study and sometimes sleep. 

The success of O-Week is a testament of UNSW Values in Action. Staff and students collaborated, innovated and demonstrated excellence by putting students first. We hope to continue to foster this vibrant community of inclusiveness, especially for our students abroad, and to continue to strengthen the upbeat culture O-Week has already generated.


This article was first published in Inside UNSW