Dr Melissa Russell is one of our lead advisors for International Student Success. She is a researcher and lecturer in epidemiology and Head of the Centre of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Teaching Unit at the University of Melbourne.
In line with her interest in mental health and education, Melissa is involved in a large research project investigating university student wellbeing, with a particular focus on international students. She has also undertaken many innovative projects to enhance the experience of international students in the University of Melbourne Master of Public Health.
What do you consider your career highlights?
My career highlights are always related to seeing students succeed in challenging circumstances and assisting them to do that. Setting up courses and seeing students have those ‘lightbulb moments’ is also a career highlight. These experiences probably eclipse the grants, journal publications etc of the standard academic career.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Epigeum on International Student Success?
Through my experience and research I can see that a strong orientation is key to international student success. Anything that we can do to support students prior to their arrival and early in their studies is important. I studied in a different country as a student myself (India!) and I think something like this would have been so valuable – I was completely naïve and it took me a long time to work out the communication norms. I am also, always, a very strong advocate for international students in Australia, they add so much to the university and wider community.
What was the most satisfying part of working on International Student Success?
It was great to see it all come together and the collaborative nature of everyone working towards the same goal. Hearing the student’s views was also provided such invaluable insight.
What are you currently working on outside of Epigeum?
I am just finishing a funded project investigating whether the way we design university curriculum can impact university student mental health. This analysis was completed within a much larger study investigating the prevalence of mental health and other health issues in university students. This larger project has a number of researchers involved from the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne and my own School at the University of Melbourne (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne). Also, within this project we completed a COVID-19 follow-up survey. As part of this project, I have been supervising a fabulous international student from China who has studied the effect of COVID-19 on international students from China.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I keep pretty active. I love running and any activity/sport. I am trying to learn to surf at the moment – which probably makes me sound very Australian!
I am also an epidemiologist and spend a bit of time reading papers and keeping up with the developments in the field – that probably makes me sound very dull!
Made up of four clear and concise modules, International Student Success will equip undergraduate and postgraduate international students with the knowledge, skills, and understanding that are central to preparing for, and adjusting to, university life in Australia.
Packed full of practical tips, real student voices, and “myth-busting” exercises, this holistic programme will address a range of key concerns and issues, including culture shock, effective communication, and finding support away from home – using a rich array of dynamic, interactive content to deliver core information, manage expectations, and build confidence.