New MENA student mentoring programme

26 Aug, 2022
Nabil Sabra
Art and Design lecturer and PhD candidate Nabil Sabra.

Nabil Sabra wears many hats.

The lecturer and PhD candidate at Auckland University of Technology’s School of Art and Design has a passion for helping people that’s seen him work and volunteer in roles across education and the not-for-profit sector in both Aotearoa and his home country, Yemen.

Recently, Nabil added a new hat to the collection, establishing a mentoring programme for Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) students in the Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies.

The MENA Students Mentoring Programme aims to support student success, by creating safe and supportive community.

We spoke to Nabil, whose PhD focuses on developing an adult learning approach to enhance undergraduates critical thinking, about the new initiative.

Why have you established the MENA Students Mentoring Programme?

Studying abroad can be a lonely journey, especially when you are away from family and friends. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, many of us felt especially isolated. My mentor, Professor Welby Ings, noticed this, and was keen to do something about it. He asked me if we could create a safe and supportive space for students with a similar journey to support each other. I was thrilled by the opportunity to do this.

What does the programme aim to achieve?

It aims to provide a network of support and guidance for MENA students, where they feel safe asking for advice and can connect with others like them. We hope to be a source of information for these students – helping them to find support, by referring them to the right services within the university. The programme also aims to support academics who wish to gain a cultural understanding of MENA students.

How has this programme been designed?

The program framework has seven themes: Learning and academic development, Building a better culture, Leadership development, Employee onboarding, Diversity and inclusion, Engagement, and Communication. It's created in a way that allows students to shape it themselves, giving them ownership and fulfilling their needs.

What kind of events and initiatives can students expect as part of this programme?

We aim to link students up with the services offered by AUT – like peer-to-peer mentoring, library services, Studiosity, tutoring support, and the Employability Lab. We also plan to hold social events, celebrating times of cultural significance like Ramadan and Eid, which will be open to all AUT students and staff interested in learning about these holidays.

MENA student members will be able to hone their leadership, confidence, and communication skills by building and shaping the programme itself. We hope to attract MENA alumni and community leaders to speak at our events, and to encourage students to join other networks to extend their engagement across the university.

How can MENA students join this programme?

We run biweekly meetings and maintain channels across Miro and MS Teams and hope to develop a social media presence in the future. If you are interested in joining the community, please contact

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