MDH Staff and students to present groundbreaking transition programme at the national widening participation symposium

The New Starter Programme (NSP) is an innovative partnership between staff and students in the Health Sciences School (HSS), which provides valuable support to local widening participation students during their transition to university. The collaborative work will be presented at the National Education Opportunities Network’s (NEON) annual symposium as an example of best practice.

New Starter Programme 2019 planning meeting (L-R: Sarah Spencer, Tayab Haider, Maureen Nettleship, Georgia Greaves & Mick Ashman)

The NSP was first delivered in 2016, when the feeling of belonging at university was identified by students in the HSS as an issue that needed attention. This is especially important given that The School attracts high numbers of commuting students, and students from widening participation backgrounds. To overcome this issue, a pioneering transition programme for new students was developed by Outreach Activities Officer Emma Parr, which would have at its heart the experiences and expertise of existing students (‘ambassadors’). In turn, the ambassadors would feel recognition for their contribution, and feel a greater sense of belonging themselves at university. The NSP was first delivered in 2016 and has run in the week prior to the University’s Introduction Week for the past four years. In September 2020, the programme ran virtually for all new students in the HSS.

NSP 2018, group leader Celina Gitau leading her group in the icebreaker activity.

The three day scheme offers subject specific sessions focusing on social activities, support services and an introduction to study services, which strengthen students’ feelings of belonging at university. The ambassadors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and therefore represent the diversity of the new student cohort. They provide a valuable insight into the unique challenges faced by commuting students, and those from widening participation backgrounds. From the inception to the evaluation of the programme, ambassadors are embedded within every aspect of the programme. 

“The current students helped me feel even more at ease. Having people in a similar situation to me, and being able to speak to them. If she can do it, so can I.” -(NSP attendee 2017)

As well as supporting new starters, the NSP has been shown to develop the confidence of the Student Ambassadors themselves by honouring their experiences through its student-led approach. The partnership model adopted by the NSP has therefore had a transformative impact on the students who have engaged with it to date. 

“(Planning and delivering the NSP) motivated us to work hard academically, wanting to set an example to other new students. We are passing on our experiences of our learning journey and reflecting on our own experiences… we celebrate in each others’ successes academically and also on a personal level.” (NSP attendee 2017, Ambassador 2018).

Due to the successful collaboration between students and staff, the work of the New Starter Programme will be presented at NEON’s Annual Symposium, which will run from the 21st-22nd October. Emma Parr and two students will share their experience and advice on how to work together to deliver a successful transition programme.  

Video Link to 2018 NSP

Students and Staff involved in the Programme between 2016-2020

Students (past and present): 

Division of Nursing and Midwifery: Racquel Ward, Abigail Wallace, Elliot Stonehouse, Hibaq Sulub, Lauren Hall, Hafza Nawaz, Sadhia Saleem, Sadia Batul, Zara Khan, Helena Loynes, Naomi Hall, Georgia Greaves, Shahana Patindol, Maureen Nettleship, Shelby Green, Sarah Joseph, Alice Goldsbrough, Ellie Gatley, Ikrah Amin, Danielle Cardiss, Jess Peters, Habeebah Rehman, Charlotte Ewans, Matthew Gresham, Alistair Pattison, Celina Gitau, Helen Shaw, Carrie Le Billon, Nicola Eastwood, Tayaba Haider, Kirsty McKenzie, Heba Salama, Jasmine Douglas and Albert Attom

Division of Human Communication Sciences: Lucy Drysdale, Daniel Phillips, Tracy Johnson, Shamila Ditta and Zaveria Khan

Division of Orthoptics: Siu Lai, Aamina Nadim, Alisha Bycroft, Mariam Sharif, Olivia Coe, Alis Sejourne, Nafisa Jama and Annabel Mynett 

Staff (past and present)

Faculty: Matt Burton, Catherine Duncum, Natatlie Parker, Emma Parr (NSP lead), Elliot Walker

Division of Nursing & Midwifery: Mick Ashman, Jackie Dale, Hannah Fairbrother, Julie Hutchinson, Andrea Fox, Jill Thompson, Debbie Turner, Elaine Whitton and Fiona Wilson

Division of Human Communication Sciences: John Mason and Sarah Spencer

Division of Orthoptics: Anne Bjerre, Helen Davis, Debbie Proctor, Sonia Toor

Other services: Helen Dickinson (Library), Kate Grigsby (Library), Oli Johnson (301), Blair Bayliss (CWaG), Victor Guillen (WAS), Lynne Newcome (WAS), James Blenclowe (SPORT Sheffield) + staff from Student Advice Centre.

+an additional thankyou to all the staff who provided introduction videos.