TreSilienssi project continues to support students’ well-being throughout the new academic year
As the new academic year began, the effects of COVID-19 were still felt at Tampere Universities. Online learning and various restrictions have become part of studying but returning to the so-called “new normal” is gradually starting on the campuses. This is very important for the well-being of students. University studies mean processing the things one learns, collaboration and encounters with other people, and feelings of community. These are the dimensions of learning that the Tampere Universities community will strive to safeguard during the academic year of 2021/2022 without compromising health and safety.
The TreSilienssi project will continue the cooperation between Tampere Universities started in spring 2021. Universities of applied sciences and research universities have different operating environments, but they share the same vision of supporting students’ well-being. The project has identified common themes and natural channels for cooperation and been a good platform for sharing ideas and initiatives.
One excellent example of cooperation is the Parvi concept that is promoting encounters. It aims to streamline the forms of support available to students by bringing them together in one place. Both Universities also have calendars that include well-being events for students, small groups, on-call support, and webinars. For example, the Well-being as an asset webinar series launched at the end of September will explore students’ well-being from different perspectives. The webinars are open to the entire Universities community.
TAMK invests in personal encounters
“Last spring, we focused on meeting students via multiple channels and raising awareness of support measures. We launched 14 small groups that worked to hone study skills and reduce feelings of loneliness. We also met with student groups and carried out interventions to address such issues as frustration with COVID-19. The aim of the student group meetings is to create feelings of community and share information. The meetings will continue this autumn,” says Project Coordinator Anna Laurila.
“Because of the TreSilienssi project funding, TAMK hired a second Student Well-being Advisor, Johanna Virtanen, who is a significant additional resource in reaching out to those students whom tutors or academic counsellors have been unable to contact during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the start of the autumn semester, we have also strengthened peer counselling where students support each other in such areas as the challenges of learning maths,” Laurila continues.
She praises the new Parvi concept, which – in addition to the website – also serves as a physical space in the C building on TAMK’s main campus. It provides low-threshold support services and peer support and facilitates encounters between people. On a weekly basis, the space offers essential support services for students without an appointment, and a chat room will soon open for students who are unable to come to the main campus for various reasons.
TAU increases resources and intensifies communication
“Last spring, we focused on contacting students to identify their support needs. In May, we also introduced the Student’s Compass tool to support students’ well-being,” says Coordinator Mikko Salminen.
“The TreSilienssi project has given us extra resources for students’ study psychologist and counselling services. In the autumn, we will continue the activities started last spring and explore ways to make more peer support available to the students,” Salminen adds.
He regrets that all students have not sufficiently found the guidance services offered by the University. Improving communication about these services is therefore an important measure implemented in the TreSilienssi project.
Tamko: Students support each other in challenging times
Already during the application phase of the project, the Student Union of Tampere University (TREY) and the Students’ Union of Tampere University of Applied Sciences (Tamko) were the Universities’ close partners. The Student Unions have a history of sustained work to increase students’ well-being. The Unions have also responded to the specific challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic with their own actions.
“Investing in feelings of community has been important. We supported the induction of new students by organising safe group activities led by peer tutors, and degree tutors in the English-language degree programmes. We postponed the traditional Tursajaiset event for first year students – which we usually organise in the autumn semester – and held it virtually last spring. Over 800 students attended the event which was very well received. We have also continued peer coaching activities to create a sense of community for all TAMK students,” says Elli Korhonen, Tutoring Specialist at Tamko.
TREY: Advocacy for a well community
Students’ well-being is a key objective of TREY.
“TREY supports students’ well-being in various ways. As an advocacy organisation, our most significant method is making students’ voices heard and collaborating with the University on issues that are important to students,” says Laura Kaipia, TREY’s Specialist on Social Affairs.
“As part of this work, we have, among other things, conducted two extensive surveys on COVID-19 whose results have been used to support the work of our member organisations and to influence the University’s pandemic response policies,” Kaipia adds.
According to Kaipia, TREY’s most visible activities during the COVID-19 pandemic have been the Well-being Challenge Week in autumn 2020 and the Student Union's ongoing communications about various well-being and support services. Kaipia also underlines the role of student organisations as builders of students’ everyday lives.
Both TREY and Tamko are looking forward to the events and student encounters in the new academic year. Welcoming new and returning students to the campuses started at the beginning of the academic year, and activities are gradually settling back in the “new normal”. The realisation of student events is also important for the coping and motivation of Student Union activists.
TREY and Tamko are helping to further the project
The Student Unions’ contribution to the TreSilienssi project is essential. The views and ideas expressed by students will help to make the Universities’ education support more student-centred. Thus, the TreSilienssi project coordinators will maintain regular contact with Tamko and TREY and plan activities with them.
“TREY’s expertise in the challenges and needs related to students’ well-being is a huge asset for us in the project,” says Salminen.
According to him, the most important form of co-operation between the Student Union and the TreSilienssi project is the possibility to apply for resources to organise student events.
“Student events are very important building blocks of well-being and the community spirit. Organising events during the COVID-19 pandemic has naturally been a challenge for many member organisations, meaning that we want to play our part in supporting them. The support is intended for events that improve students’ well-being, and all associations affiliated with TREY can apply,” Salminen says.
At Tampere University of Applied Sciences, TreSilienssi and Tamko have worked closely together from the very beginning.
“We have worked closely together, and the Student Union’s contribution has significantly improved students’ study performance,” Laurila says.
“For example, Tamko has actively communicated the Parvi concept, and we have gradually raised awareness of the Parvi well-being calendar and the new low-threshold forms of support at TAMK,” Laurila continues.
“We have also opened event support for TAMK’s student organisations and involved them in the planning of project activities to ensure that the activities serve the students’ needs in the best possible way,” Laurila adds.
She has a few more tips for supporting the community:
“The Restart the Student Life racetrack has been opened to old students, and we have over 80 teams tracking control points around the city. We welcomed students and staff returning to the main campus with pancakes, which we served with SportUni, Tamko and the Campus Pastor in the courtyard for three days,” Laurila says.