The Interview Australia
Bond University
Director for Student Success and Wellbeing

Stephanie Taylor

As the information era accelerates, universities grapple with the paradox of unprecedented connectivity coupled with the challenge of ensuring their key messages pierce through the noise. In her role as Director for Student Success and Wellbeing at Bond University, Stephanie Taylor is not only responsible for developing strategy but also ensuring that it is heard and understood by staff and students alike. 

Stephanie sat down with Luke James, Co-Host of The Interview, to discuss some of the biggest challenges facing the higher education sector in Australia, from the need to communicate effectively with students to concerns about student safety and the issue of harassment. 

Stephanie's Journey

Luke: Let’s begin with a quick introduction to yourself and your institution. 

Sure! I’m Stephanie Taylor, and I’m the Director for Student Success and Wellbeing at Bond University in Queensland, Australia. 

Luke: What attracted you to higher education? And how did you arrive in your current role? 

My career has been shaped by my early years; I was born outside of Perth, in Western Australia, and that’s where I grew up, went to university, and started my career. My early career was spent as a social work practitioner specialising in juvenile justice and community legal services, dealing with issues such as domestic violence and family crisis. But I decided that I wanted to see more of Australia, so I moved to Melbourne to work in the charity sector before moving into higher education in Tasmania. So, I found my way here through a whole range of different personal and professional experiences. The reason why I chose this path is because I passionately believe education should be accessible to people from all walks of life. 

Luke: What’s the best way of fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging across a whole institution? 

It’s an interesting and complex challenge. Over the last several years, we’ve started to understand belonging as a key indicator for student retention and success. But when we talk about a sense of belonging, we need to recognise that our student body is increasingly diverse: that means they might have different motivations and expectations from higher education. That’s a challenge, but it’s also an enormous opportunity. For me, belonging is about truly understanding who your students are. If you achieve that, you can be much more personalised in the kind of support you provide. It’s an ongoing process, and it will never be perfect, so we need to demonstrate that we are working hard to listen to our students. In terms of inclusion, we need to ensure everything from our learning design to our digital environments is accessible and welcoming for everyone. That’s the foundation of providing an inclusive higher education experience. 

Luke: Higher education is always evolving, but institutions are often resistant to change. What’s the best approach for introducing colleagues to new ideas and approaches?

That’s a great question. It’s crucial to spend time with your peers, listen to their ideas, and work together to develop good practices. One of my other roles is the President of the Australia and New Zealand Student Services Association, and I love that work because it inspires collaboration. You need to always keep connected, stay curious, and try new things. Look around at what others are doing and see what you can adapt to your environment. People are busier than ever, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so it’s sometimes necessary to step away, reassess, and come back with a fresh approach. 

Luke: Students have a lot of demands on their time, and it can be difficult to cut through the noise. What’s your strategy for getting those key messages across?

It can be frustrating at times. Our national surveys have shown that students sometimes don’t have the critical information they need, even though those details might be on our website or in our newsletters. But what that tells us is that we need to do a better job cutting through. It’s important to understand that we live in a world which is absolutely saturated with information: no matter if you’re a student or a member of staff, you are being bombarded from all sides, all the time. For a new student who is coming into a university environment for the first time, that can be overwhelming. So, we need to be very thoughtful about how to deliver our core messages. Universities need to have a connected, joined-up approach to communication with students. A university is a large, complex organisation, but all of the parts don’t always work in unison. We need to be more intentional about our communications strategy: for example, emails are often left unread, but if we integrate those messages into their learning management system, it will be more effective. Students listen to each other more than they listen to us, so partnering with student leaders and associations is key. But just throwing things at the wall and hoping they will stick is a losing battle.

Luke: Student safety and the prevention of harassment have become key issues in the sector. How can we go about creating learning communities which are safe and inclusive for all? 

There are many dimensions to it. We need to think carefully about how we communicate and respond. On the one hand, there is an element which is reactive, but it’s also crucial to drive wider cultural change. We need to ask ourselves the question: can people actually see change around them? Our focus needs to incorporate the whole spectrum, from role-modelling positive behaviours to ensuring that our messages are visible. Students and staff need to understand what is expected of them and what processes are in place to protect them. The university needs to demonstrate its commitment by acting with honesty and transparency. We need to consult with students and experts to figure out how our approach will fit in with the wider societal response to these challenges. There’s so much work to do in this space, so we need to stay motivated to make a difference.

Luke: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had? 

It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. Focus on how you demonstrate your qualities, attributes, and values. Live by your values, and always act with empathy, respect, and transparency.

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Luke James
Luke works hand-in-hand with leaders and changemakers in our professional services markets. If you want to join the next series of The Interview, or just learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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