What does it mean to be a great graduate? In addition to delivering quality programmes, AUT is committed to supporting students’ journeys of personal growth to build positive psychology.
Alongside traditional services to support students’ health, safety and wellbeing, AUT is experimenting with some innovative ideas to strengthen the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellness of the student community.
Bright Side (formerly known as Wiser) at AUT is one such initiative. Nestled next to Laneway Café on Symonds Street, it is a welcoming, intimate space designed for conversation, connection and reflection on the ups and downs of being human.
The space is home to a programme of talks, workshops, rituals and social events where students can explore how better self-knowledge and a greater sense of purpose can contribute meaning in their lives. The programme aims to develop an optimistic state, even when life throws a curve ball.
The physical space has translucent curtains and feels light and bright. Within the space, students ponder questions like ‘should I focus on a career path or a life path?’, ‘how do I bring a sense of calm to my life no matter what’s going on around me?’, and ‘how do I make better decisions?’
The free service for AUT students was inspired in part by the School of Life in Melbourne and London.
“We’re trying to create a new type of experience, a third space within the University,” says Derek Handley, Adjunct Executive Professor. “A space where, in addition to their classroom learning, students can explore the ups and downs of being human. To enter a conversation of ‘what is it we are here on this planet to do, and how could we live better?’”
Student Services Associate Director Rebecca Shrigley has led the development of the Bright Side programme, and says the service is unique in New Zealand.
“Rather than being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, we’re trying to build proactive personal development and resilience for students,” says Rebecca.
Alongside regular Monday morning ‘brew’ sessions where students drop in for coffee and take a moment to step back and reflect on life, they can attend a series of talks that have so far included interesting thinkers - social activist Richie Hardcore, Olympian Brooke Neal, aka “the plantbased Māori” Raniera Rewiri and health and beauty blogger Hinepanea Shortland.
“If you have a strong sense of meaning, connection and balance, you’re more likely to be able to bounce back when life gives you a knock.”Rebecca Shrigley,
Student Services Associate Director
There are also guided workshops exploring values, decision making, building better habits, dealing with social media addiction, how to design your life, practicing presence, de-stressing and romantic relationships. “Eighty percent of the content or wisdom comes from the students,” Rebecca says. “That they learn from one another is one of the highest values of our programme.”
During the first six weeks, while Bright Side experimented and prototyped its services, it connected with more than 200 students.
“We are designing and layering content in collaboration with the student community to build a programme that adds value where students seek it most.”