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Alice Draffin is our new Director of Student Life

Alice Draffin - Student Life Director at St Andrew's

Alice has worked in higher education and colleges since 2017, including at Brown University and The University of Rochester, where she also completed her master’s degree in higher education administration. In this post, Alice shares more about her background, career path, current role, and interests outside of work.

Please tell us a bit more about yourself – where are you originally from and where did you grow up?

I grew up on a farm near the rural Victorian town of Ballarat and I moved to Melbourne for university where I studied a dual degree in Arts/Education (Sec) at Monash University. Because I was moving so far from home, I lived at Mannix College for three years. In my second year, I was Sports Convenor and was elected Student Club President in my third year. To be elected by 250 of my peers to this role is still one of my proudest moments and something I will never forget.  I had the most incredible, transformative experience at Mannix, really becoming the person and leader I am today thanks to the life lessons and leadership experiences I gained at College. This is essentially what drew me to wanting to work in Colleges later down the track.

What attacted you to the position of Director of Student Life at Drew’s?

St Andrew’s is a leading residential college in so many ways, particularly in relation to the commitment to student-centred responsibility and the idea that students can and should be trusted to self-govern. Having worked in the residential college sector for several years now, this focus on student agency and accountability speaks to the core of a true higher education experience and ultimately helps students grow in more meaningful ways. I am incredibly excited to work and collaborate closely with students through the role of Director of Student Life. There is little that professionally fuels me more than the opportunity to support, mentor, and facilitate impactful growth and development in young adults.   

Can you explain your role in 20 words or less?

Collaboratively design, deliver, and support the many student life programs that enrich St Andrew’s and make it a well-rounded, inclusive community.

What are you hoping to achieve in this role?

For me, students are the beating heart of a residential college. Within the role, I will be striving to work closely with staff and student leaders and ensure that St Andrew’s continues to deliver a Student Life experience that is world-class. That all students feel a sense of belonging and have access to the support, opportunities, and development that they need at the various stages of their collegiate journey.

Could you tell us about your career path to date? What are some of your recent professional achievements and goals?

I have known I wanted to work in Residential Colleges since my own transformative experience as an undergrad at college. Following my early career as a Secondary School teacher, working concurrently as the President of the National Association of Australian University Colleges (NAAUC), I made the decision to move to the USA to pursue a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration. My learnings at both the University of Rochester and Brown University have informed my subsequent work in Residential Colleges Back home. Since my return to Australia, I have held senior staff positions at both The Women’s College and St John’s College within the University of Queensland. Across these roles, I have been deeply involved in all aspects of student life including wellbeing, academic support, career mentoring, orientation programming, and student leadership development.

Can you share something about yourself that most people don’t know?

I am an open book, there is very little that people don’t know about me. One of the greatest parts about living in a college is that we all become a family, we share and celebrate each other’s successes, and we support one another through the challenging times. I love getting to know people in meaningful ways and in turn, opening up to others. I can’t wait to dive into this at St Andrew’s and share myself with the community.  

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Netball is my first true love, I have been playing in some capacity since I was 5 years old. So you’ll often find me throwing on the ankle braces and running off to training, or a game (I’ve already found a club in Sydney that I’ve joined).  

What are you reading/watching or listening to at the moment that you’d recommend?

I am currently reading Impact Players by Liz Wiseman. I would highly recommend it as it really speaks to the demographic of College students – typical high achievers. I would suggest reading this if you want to go from being good at whatever it is you’re doing (work, university, sport, creative arts etc), to being truly transformative.       

What’s your best memory from your time at university?

Formal Dinners were my fondest memory of my undergraduate experience at a college, and they continue to be one of my favourite parts of my role as a staff member. The coming together of an entire college community to enjoy a shared meal and engage in intellectually stimulating discussion whilst hearing from great thinkers who challenge and question is a uniquely collegial tradition that holds a special place in my heart.  

 If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?

I know this is dreadfully cliched, but as a product of the 90s and a true millennial, I have to say the Harry Potter series. There is something so warmly nostalgic about re-reading them for the 12th time, already knowing every single line, but still being transported to that world in your mind.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which 5 things would you take with you?

My partner Matt, my cat Bertie, a nice light-hearted novel, and then I suppose some good cheese and wine.

What was the first album you’ve ever listened to?

Again, I’m a 90s kid through and through, and my first album was ‘Aqua’. Oh boy, I really did play Barbie Girl over and over again on my CD player (my poor parents)!  

What was the first concert you’ve ever been to?

Backstreet Boys! Another iconic 90s group- they walked so One Direction could run.

If you were to choose a song to sing at karaoke, which one would you select?

Celine Dion – ‘My Heart Will Go On’, always a crowd favourite (until the crowd realises I can’t sing…).

Which emoji represents you the most?

The smiley face with little hearts around it.

We are all so excited about Alice’s experience and enthusiasm and we can’t wait to see all the improvements she will be bringing to College.

Read some of our other staff members’ profiles: Dr Daniel Tyler, Dr Rob Leach, and Fouz Fatima.