The Inclusive Campus: Changes to Documentation Guidelines for Mental Health Disabilities

Group of young people standing together speaking (one black man and three white women)

Consistent with York’s culture, history and values, our University has earned a reputation for providing high-quality support to students with disabilities. This is captured — superbly — in the quote below from a student who offered the following when asked to comment on the support received from Counselling & Disability Services (CDS).

I would like to say that the academic accommodation that I received through CDS . . . was the single greatest aid I had in completing my degree. I truly don’t know if I would have been able to complete my degree or get As in my last few courses if I did not have that accommodation. . . . I don’t know how else to explain my gratitude . . .  thank you, CDS.

This is an affirmation of the great work being done to support students with diagnosed disabilities by our disability services staff in Counselling & Disability Services. This work is further supported by Personal Counselling Services (PCS), which strives to assist all students — regardless of whether or not they have a diagnosed disability — to reach  their full personal potential, maximize their University experience and build resilience. On behalf of the Provost, our faculty colleagues, staff from across the campus, and — most notably — all our students: thank you.

With that as context, Marc Wilchesky, the Executive Director of CDS, and I want to provide an update related to academic accommodations. Specifically, Mental Health Disability Services adopted new documentation guidelines in January 2016. Simply put, students no longer have to disclose their specific mental health diagnosis to register for academic accommodations and supports. These changes align with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s recent Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions (June 2014).

Some students may voluntarily choose to disclose their specific diagnosis to MHDS because professionals therein have expertise that can inform the accommodations process. It’s important to emphasize, however, that students are not required to do so. Instead, the medical documentation only needs to confirm a diagnosed mental health disability and list the specific functional limitations. Students will be eligible to receive the full range of appropriate academic accommodations based on any functional limitations related to the disability.

This change is in keeping with York’s commitment to promote a healthy, inclusive and supportive learning environment that fosters mental health and well-being. It’s a progressive approach being emulated across the province — and yet another example of York’s leadership. It’s but one of the many reasons I am so proud to lead the Division of Students.

More information about MHDS and the new documentation guidelines can be found at: MHDS Registration Information

York University announces a new student award in honour of Invictus Games

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton welcomed the Invictus Games National Flag Tour to the Keele campus on Sept. 20.

At the welcome ceremony, Lenton announced a new award in honour of the Invictus Games in support of increased access to postsecondary education for Canada’s Military personnel and their children.

The York University Service Award provides up to $20,000 over four years to a York University student who is a Canadian Armed Forces member, active or retired, and who has a physical, sensory, medical, mental health or learning disability. The award will also be available to a student with a disability who is a child of a Canadian Armed Forces member.

“This new award will stand as a legacy of the 2017 Invictus Games at York, and will serve as an important way to honour the dedicated individuals whose commitment to service exemplifies the best of Canada,” said Lenton. “It is a great honour to host the inspiring athletes who will compete at next week’s Invictus Games here at York, and we look forward to welcoming competitors, their families and the wider community to the University.”

Image by York University
Above: Back row, from left, President & Vice-Chancellor of York University, Rhonda Lenton, Schulich School of Business student and flag bearer, Sayam Khan, Brigadier-General Stephen Cadden, Commander, 4th Canadian Division, York U Professor Walter Perchal, Giovanna Cioffi, three-time graduate of York University. Pictured in the front row are York University Lions athletes.

“The York University Service Award demonstrates the institution’s recognition of the dedication and courage of the men and women who serve our country so well. I know what a tremendous impact events and programs like this have on our military and their families,” said Brigadier-General Stephen Cadden, commander, 4th Canadian Division.

York University’s Keele Campus was the first stop in the Greater Toronto Area during The National Flag Tour, which has travelled from coast-to-coast visiting 22 military bases, 15 legions and more than 50 communities. The tour runs from Aug. 16 through to Sept. 22.

York University students Sayem Khan and Giovanna Cioffi and Professor Walter Perchal, were selected to help carry the Official Invictus Games Flag – a physical representation of the unconquerable spirit of the Games’ competitors.

Image by York University
Above: From left, Vimy, Invictus Games mascot, Flag bearers Sayam Khan, Schulich School of Business student, Professor Walter Perchal of York University, and Giovanna Cioffi, who is a three-time graduate of York University. Both Perchal and Cioffi are current members of the Canadian Forces.

Sayem Khan is a member of the elite Schulich Ambassador Program at the Schulich School of Business at York University. Khan applied to be a flag bearer via the Invictus Games. He arrived in Canada as an immigrant and is proud of his work with the Toronto Police Service’s ‘Youth in Policing’ initiative.

Professor Walter Perchal is a current member of the York University faculty. He served with the Canadian Forces for many years. Over the course of his duties, as a Senior Officer, Perchal previously commanded The Royal Regiment of Canada. He later served as Special Advisor to the Canadian Army Commander, and did foreign service as a Military Advisor with NATO Allies.

Giovanna Cioffi is a three-time graduate of York University. She is now pursuing her PhD in Communication and Culture. Coffi earned two master’s degrees including Environmental Science and Disaster and Emergency Management from York, following her undergraduate York Degree. She currently serves with the Canadian Forces.

The Invictus Games Toronto 2017 takes place from Sept. 23 to 30. York University will serve as a venue for the games’ athletics competition. York is among several venues in the Greater Toronto Area to host the competition. On Sept. 24 and 25 athletes will compete at the York Lions Stadium in athletics events that include track, jumping, throwing and combined events including those competing in wheelchairs, with prostheses, or under the guidance of a sighted person known as a guide.

The Invictus Games uses the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding of and respect for those who serve their country and their loved ones.  Visit www.InvictusGames2017.com for the full Flag Tour schedule and tickets.

This feature is repurposed from Yfile, York University’s eNewletter, September 21, 2017.

Welcoming Lucy Fromowitz and Celebrating Sizzlin’ Success at the Division of Students Barbecue

Here at YorkU, we have a lot to celebrate this summer: we can reflect proudly on our accomplished graduates as they go out into the world, the foundation of a brand-new Markham campus, and the advent of what promises to be a wonderful 2017-2018 academic year with the appointment of our new Vice-Provost Students, Lucy Fromowitz!

To welcome our new leader and celebrate our staff’s commitment to student success, the Division of Students gathered on Friday, July 21 at The Underground for a Sizzlin’ Success Barbecue. During the event, staff members from the Division of Students shared classic barbecue fare including burgers (with alternate options for various dietary restrictions), salad and popsicles, and settled in to learn a little more about our new Vice-Provost Students and the upcoming year at YorkU.

The Sizzlin’ Summer Celebration

Immediately upon walking into the Sizzlin’ Summer Barbecue, Division of Students staff were treated to a display of YorkU pride. The event committee had transformed the Underground with red and white decorations, balloons and lights to reflect the YorkU colours. After some lively conversation between colleagues, our student MCs took the stage to start the afternoon’s events. Angelica Lyn Grospe and Sebastien Lalonde are dynamic student leaders in the YorkU community and they kept the event rolling with humour and style!

Introducing: Lucy Fromowitz

After welcoming the crowd and inviting Randy Pitawanakwat, Coordinator, Aboriginal Student Services, to acknowledge the Indigenous land upon which YorkU stands, Angelica and Sebastien introduced Lucy Fromowitz.

As a previous YorkU student and employee, Lucy has a unique understanding of the University’s history and identity. In each of her professional roles, Lucy has provided leadership in enhancing student engagement, learning and success. In her new role at YorkU, Lucy will lead the campus in the coordination of advising and student services, promote communications with students, and support strategic enrolment planning and recruitment— all while helping to create a safe, healthy campus environment for students at YorkU.

Lucy took to the stage to discuss the unique role of The Division of Students. She notes that the Division works to create opportunities for student success by supporting student services, daily administrative requirements, marketing and outreach operations. We also work closely with YorkU’s student population to form a community of ideas and engagement. Students inspire everything we do, and the significance of that was central to Lucy’s address. For Lucy, thinking like and with students is the key to our mandate.

“We have to approach things the way our students do: with curiosity,” she said. “We create with our students.”

Lucy honoured the commitment of the Division of Students staff to supporting student success and service excellence. To demonstrate the dedication of everyone in the department, she asked staff members who had been with YorkU for 25, 10 and five years and then one year to stand up. As people rose with their peers, the room cheered and clapped in recognition.

Lucy continued by saying that, as YorkU moves into the future, engaging with our students and listening to their diverse perspectives will be a cornerstone of creating positive change. Our values – Respect, Accountability, Excellence, Care, Innovation, Inclusion and Collaboration — will guide us as we move into the 2017-2018 academic year, yielding new opportunities. Together, students and staff will continue the collaborative dialogues that make the YorkU campus a progressive, distinct, student-centric place.

After a lighthearted selfie with Lucy, Angelica and Sebastien breezed through the long list of YorkU acronyms, listing terms such as ACE, CDS, SCS, VPF&A, OSCR, CSBO, LSE, SCLD and YU to “help” Lucy reorient herself to York. “York has its own language,” they said, leading to nodding heads and smiles as staff called out the acronyms as they were spoken.

Celebrating the Division of Students Staff

Angelica and Sebastien then introduced Brendan Schulz, Executive Director, Student Success, Carol Altilia, University Registrar, and Sheila Forshaw, Executive Director, Resources.

To illustrate how everyone in the room had a role in supporting our students across the student lifecycle, each audience member stood up as Brendan, Carol and Sheila called out key milestones — recruitment, admission, document processing, registrarial and financial services, health and wellness, student development, care and support, leadership development, career planning. All 200+ staff stood, often more than once, as their collaboration and cooperation was highlighted. The University Registrar next drew attention to the updated “Building on Successes” handout capturing the unit-specific achievements of the past year (2016-17) and encouraged everyone to pick up a copy on their way out.

After recognizing the Division of Students staff, a lively game of “Tips for Lucy” commenced where each table filled out a questionnaire with insider information about the best places to eat, find a quality coffee, mingle with students or unwind, along with the best campus view and the fastest route from Bennett to Tait McKenzie. The interactive game – a brainchild of the Student Success Centre (SSC – another acronym!) team — was an excellent way for staff members to share their experienced perspectives on YorkU with Lucy and with each other.

All staff then gathered outside in the sunny square for popsicles – the perfect close to a summer BBQ.

To experience the event in pictures, click through the Sizzlin’ Success Celebration Flickr feed: https://www.flickr.com/photos/yorkuniversity/albums/72157684025278664.

A special “thank you” to the Event Committee for planning the Sizzlin’ Summer Celebration: Rheza Evangelista, Julie Rahmer, Donna Cope, Saba Rafiq, Catherine Salole, Shanthini Jeyakumar, Dianne Twombley and Mary Dytyniak!

The Division of Students reflections on success

Happy summer to you!

As we see our students crossing the stage during Convocation this week, it is a good time to reflect on all the great work that has been accomplished this past year.

Some key accomplishments from the year include:

  • Held the largest-ever York Orientation Day event.
  • YU START earned two nationally recognized awards for innovation – one from CACUSS and the other from CAUBO.
  • Launched the Student Mental Health strategy as part of the overall Campus Mental Health strategy.
  • Received Canada 150 funding to enhance and deliver our largest ever annual Career Success Symposium for students with disabilities.
  • Debbie Hansen named Executive Director, Community Supports & Services. She and her team are leading the new Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education.
  • Completed the expansion of our Accommodated Test & Exam Centre.
  • Skennenko:wa Gamig (The House of Great Peace, formerly Hart House) formally opened on  June 21. The facility, dedicated for use by Indigenous students, staff and faculty as a gathering space, will provide additional programming space for CASS and serve as a gathering place for the Indigenous community at York.
  • In August 2017, ACMAPS will celebrate its tenth year of dedicated service to mature and part-time students. In that time we’ve helped literally thousands of students on their journey to graduation, including York’s eldest graduate ever at age 89, Alma Kocialek.
  • Long-time York University Lions head athletic therapist Cindy Hughes inducted into the Canadian Athletic Therapy Association (CATA) Hall of Fame.
  • York University Lions wrestling brothers Mohab El-Nahas and Shady El-Nahas each won gold medals in their respective weight classes at the Canadian Open Judo Championships in Calgary.
  • York University Lions quarterback Brett Hunchak will participate this summer in the Edmonton Eskimos training camp as part of the CFL-CIS Development Program.
  • Completion of Manage My Academic Record website – enhancing student wayfinding.
  • Implementation of Electronic Funds Transfer for refunds to student accounts.
  • Implementation of comprehensive new Senate “Forgiveness” policies.
  • System and staff readiness for the transformation of OSAP/Net Tuition.

On July 4, Lucy Fromowitz will be joining York University as our new Vice-Provost Students. You will have seen from the earlier announcements that Lucy comes to us with a wealth of experience and expertise. We are really looking forward to partnering with Lucy to move the Division forward.

Best Regards,

Carol, Sheila & Brendan

Welcoming Lucy Fromowitz as New Vice-Provost, Students

Upper-body portrait shot of Lucy Fromowitz, with Divisional branding.

Rhonda Lenton, Vice-President Academic and Provost extends a welcome to incoming Vice-Provost, Students, Lucy Fromowitz:

I am pleased to inform members of the York University community of the appointment of Ms. Lucy Fromowitz as Vice-Provost, Students; her appointment will take effect July 1, 2017.

We are delighted that Ms. Fromowitz will be returning to York University after an absence of 16 years; some members of the York community may recall that she held several positions here at York from 1978 to 2001, including Director of Alumni Affairs and Director of Admissions. She is also a York alumna, holding a BA in English and an LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School.

From 2001 to 2007, she held the position of Vice-President, Student and Community Engagement at Centennial College, where she provided leadership in relation to a broad range of student and community services and contributed to strategic planning for the division and the College. She undertook a restructuring of the division to better meet the needs of a diverse student population.  She also held responsibility for community outreach (including providing opportunities for under-served populations), strategic enrolment planning, student support and success strategy, as well as internationalization strategy.

In her most recent position as Assistant Vice-President, Student Life at the University of Toronto since 2008, Ms. Fromowitz has led the creation of a new division of Student Life, with 14 departments, the development of a unified vision and strategy for the division, and the realignment of responsibilities to support institutional goals. She spearheaded the implementation of university-wide programs to enrich student life, enhance student navigation and remove barriers to full participation; she also established and implemented a cohesive strategy for programs and services to support student learning and development within a learning outcomes framework.

We are very pleased that Ms. Fromowitz will be bringing these outstanding experiences, qualifications and skills to York University as our next Vice-Provost, Students. She will provide key leadership in advancing our institutional priorities around the enhancement of student engagement, experience, and success — including the coordination of advising and student services and supports and the promotion of communications with undergraduate and graduate students — and strategic enrolment planning and recruitment. She will also collaborate with colleagues across the University to promote a safe and healthy campus environment for all community members.

I look forward to welcoming Ms. Fromowitz back to York University and to working closely with her and colleagues in the Division of Students and across the University in the coming years to continue to advance our academic priorities.

Divisional Successes and Improvements in 2016

Interior winter holiday decorations

As the year draws to a close and we get ready to spend a few quiet moments with our friends and family, it is also a good time to look back at what lies behind us and to acknowledge the successes and improvements we’ve worked so hard to achieve as a Division.

Here are the highlights from 2016:

Structures — Physical & Organizational

  • Renovations have been completed to Hart House for use by Aboriginal students, staff and faculty. Stay tuned for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in early 2017 as the Centre for Aboriginal Students (CASS) and others continue the Indigenization of York’s Keele campus.
  • We have secured funding for and begun construction of the expanded Accommodated Test & Exams Centre.
  • The Student Success Centre has been established, and in that context we also welcomed the Atkinson Centre for Mature and Part-Time Students (ACMAPS) into the Division.
  • Learning Skills Services moved to the Learning Commons and expanded its reach through the launch of the Learning Skills Peer team.
  • We improved and strengthened the Enrolment Management Group in support of Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM).
  • We restarted Retention Council.
  • The Sexual Violence Response Office (SVRO) was launched and is being supported by the Office of Student Community Relations (OSCR).
  • Student services planning has begun for the Markham campus.

Strategies, Programs & Processes

  • We have a Peer Mentor Program for students with disabilities and mental health issues led by students with lived experience in these areas. This means two-way support.
  • We have expanded our Mature Student Peer Mentor Program from ACMAPS.
  • We received a large donation to address mental health issues for varsity athletes.
  • The Career Success Symposium for Students with Disabilities proved valuable and popular.
  • We secured more than $40,000 in sponsorship dollars from throughout the University to implement the 2016 LeaderShape Institute.
  • We took the Leadership & Career Strategy from a test to a pilot, allowing students to recognize value, identify skills and articulate their ideas. The pilot was rolled out to 200 students and 39 supervisors.
  • We, the only university in Canada to have such funding, continued to grant it for the Autism Spectrum Disorder Pilot.
  • We expanded the It All Adds Up campaign, which focuses on helping students identify the many sometimes unacknowledged successes and accomplishments they’ve already achieved in their academic careers.
  • The Integrated Voice Response System was redesigned.
  • We initiated a number of process reviews including one for OSAP in readiness for Net Tuition.
  • We rolled out development plans.
  • Students (as well as faculty and staff) can now draw on the support of weekly visits from York’s very own Therapy Dog, Barnaby.
Three women with a dog, who is licking the face of one of them.
Barnaby and his affections.

Launches & Implementations

  • the Pan-University Mental Health strategy;
  • initial mental health stress-relieving strategies for exams at the Aviva and Tait McKenzie Centres;
  • the Gluco Fit program in partnership with the Canadian Diabetes Association, supporting community members from the Jane/Finch area who have been identified as pre-diabetic or have diabetes, and assisting them with fitness and nutrition;
  • the YUAdvise professional development competency framework for advisers;
  • Electronic Fund Transfers (Direct Deposits) enabling students to receive refunds faster;
  • the Alcohol Strategy for Students;
  • Manage My Academic Record;
  • the Visual Schedule Builder;
  • the revamping of the Undergraduate Academic Calendar;
  • the Undergraduate Academic Calendar online editor;
  • a new Curriculum Management System (initial stages);
  • the Degree Progress Report to 400 users;
  • a February Convocation in Absentia for more than 800 graduands;
  • the reporting of course waivers;
  • a new process for scheduling forums;
  • revised forgiveness policies;
  • a quality-assurance program to assess the student experience.

Successes

  • We collected more than 9,000 prospect leads during Fall recruitment.
  • We exceeded our digital marketing campaign goals.
  • Ontario 101 confirmations were up 6.7 per cent.
  • We witness a 10 per cent increase in offers made to 105s (that’s 1,650 more).
  • Our international applications and offers were up by more than 35 per cent.
  • We organized the largest one-day Orientation event east of the Rockies, hosting more than 4,000 first-year students in the Lion’s Stadium for York Orientation Day.
  • We saw a 55 per cent increase in the number of students engaged with the Disability Services Career Mentorship Program.
  • We accommodated a 15 per cent rise in volume through Alternate Exams.
  • One of our Residence dons, Maseh Hadaf, received the Julianne Pettigrew Award, which recognizes the top conference presentation at OACUHO (the Ontario Association of College and University Housing Officers), to which our Residence Life Team sent a delegation.
  • The TRY (Toronto-Ryerson-York) Cup once again resides with York University as the Champions of the Intramural world for Toronto.
  • We won the National Championship in women’s tennis.
  • We made our presence felt at the 2016 Rio Olympics:
    • 5 York Athletic Therapy grads worked there;
    • John May (current women’s volleyball coach) coached the Olympic beach volleyball team;
    • York Lions Khamica Bingham (4×100 sprint) and Britt Crew (shot put) competed for Canada.

York Lion mascot high-fiving a male student in a hallway (Accolade East)

There’s a lot to reflect on and even more to be proud of — York’s Division of students clearly takes it mandate as Partners in Student Success very seriously.

We hope that these successes and improvements will serve as motivation for all of us to work even harder in 2017 to bring them to their full fruition, and to add even more points of pride to the Division.

York Launches Strategy to Advance Campus Mental Health

York's Campus Mental Health Strategy
York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy

Do you know someone who has struggled with their mental health? Perhaps a family member, close friend, colleague or even yourself? Given that 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime, chances are the dialogue around mental health taking place at York, in Canada and across the world directly impacts you or someone you know.

As this conversation grows, the impetus for change falls to institutions such as York to lead the charge to raise awareness around mental health and ensure support is readily available and accessible to all of our community members – students, staff and faculty.

The University has recognized this need and has responded by developing York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy that seeks to address the needs of our campus community. The strategy officially launched this past October 18 at Founders College Assembly Hall. More than a hundred people attended.

National College Health Assessment Findings
National College Health Assessment survey data

Among others, key stakeholder Vice-President Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton and Mental Health Steering Committee Co-Chairs Lesley Beagrie, Suzanne Killick and Stephanie Francis spoke to the importance of York paving the way for other institutions to prioritize and support the advancement of mentally healthy campuses.

The strategy highlights mental health priorities for three key campus groups: students, staff and faculty, as identified during the community consultations spearheaded by York’s Mental Health Steering Committee. The plan will continue to reflect York’s commitment to health and wellness promotion; facilitation of care and support; and collaboration and discussion. New principles developed as a result of the consultations include:

  • deliver a long-term approach for the management of mental health challenges;
  • outline initiatives to help achieve improved mental health outcomes for members of the University community;
  • identify support aimed at helping individuals becoming more involved in managing their own mental health;
  • advocate for accessible services to be made available to the community, both on and off campus; and
  • focus on partnership with the University community and working together to achieve a mentally healthy campus.

The plan will also focus on four key priorities: leadership; planning and promotion; campus engagement; and service delivery.

Stephanie Francis, Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead
Stephanie Francis, Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead

Stephanie Francis, Coordinator, Health Education & Promotion, Student Success Centre, and the Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead, is encouraged by the gain made so far.

“We have already witnessed signs of progress towards advancing a mentally healthy campus within the Division of Students, and will continue to provide support and resources for students to meet strategic goals. This year, we developed and provided Mental Health training to 1000 Orientation-Week leaders; welcomed more than 600 Grade 12 students from the York Region District School Board to campus for a full day of games and lectures dedicated to educating young people about mental health; and helped conduct more than 50 community consultation sessions with students, faculty and staff to help inform the Strategy.”

Mental health extends beyond our borders here at York. It is prevalent at campuses across the country and the globe. Founder and student ambassadors from Jack.org echoed this sentiment, sharing their personal struggles and encounters with mental health issues inside and outside school communities. Led by Eric Windeler, and created in memory of his late son Jack, Jack.org is Canada’s only national network of young leaders advocating for youth mental health and aims to put an end to mental health stigma.

Jack.org
Jack.org is Canada’s only national network of young leaders advocating for youth mental health.

The investment of community members in York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy was made clear by the attendance, engagement and concerns brought forth during the question and answer period of the launch. Questions posed ranged from how York plans to simplify access to counselling services for students and increase availability of counsellors. Staff and faculty raised the need for clear resources to help them address and respond to student mental health concerns, as well as support when dealing with personal and professional issues.

While York does already offer a number of resources to aid its community members – accessible through the Mental Health & Wellness at York website – the University will also soon be adding specific, actionable recommendations that address day-to-day mental health concerns that arise on campus. Additional short-term goals include: further development of existing supports, identification of resource gaps and a continuation of community roundtable discussions (similar to past consultations) to support an open campus dialogue.

York students, staff and faculty members in attendance
York students, staff and faculty members in attendance

By re-evaluating progress every three years, the University hopes to ensure a progressive movement toward creating and maintaining a mentally healthy campus that empowers our community to thrive.

For more information about York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy and community updates, please visit: yorku.ca/mentalhealth.

The Student Self-Assessment Survey: Supporting and Building Agency for York Students

Shot from above of people walking along a path, their long shadows showing

Under the auspices of the Division of Students’ Strategic Plan, and in pursuit of our vision to be Partners in Student Success, York has adopted a highly strategic approach to enrolment management. Simply put, Strategic Enrolment Management (SEM) engages key constituents to identify, define and organize themselves around clearly articulated enrolment goals. It also mobilizes the campus to pursue those goals purposefully to produce dramatic, sustainable results. Key to SEM is enrolment intelligence, data that helps us understand the student experience to inform how we recruit, retain and communicate with our students. The intelligence is gleaned from a comprehensive review of existing enrolment-related data, as well as through new research. A great example of the latter is the Student Self-Assessment Survey.

Since 2013, incoming students to York have been asked to complete an online survey that is aligned with Alf Lizzio’s work on transition theory. Developed by our brilliant colleague Mark Conrad (Director, Institutional Enrolment & Resource Planning, Office of Institutional Planning & Analysis), the survey uses a combination of published measurement scales to give York baseline data about our students and what supports they require to be successful: (i) reasons for attending university (internal and external motivation); (ii) academic and career-goal clarity; (iii) self-concept as a student (academic self-efficacy); and, (iv) general coping skills (personal/social resourcefulness and grit). Although it’s entirely voluntary, last year almost 50 percent of our new students chose to participate. As a result, we know a lot more than we did previously about how prepared our students are for postsecondary study, about their reasons for attending university and about their capacity to persist. We are using that information to develop and deliver support resources for the students who need them most.

A hand writjng, with a coffee mug in the background

At the beginning of this week, invitations to participate in the survey this fall went out to incoming first-year students. After they complete the survey, each participant will receive a report that includes their score, an explanation about each dimension and some suggestions/tips to help them build their personal capacity. In October, we will follow up with those students and invite them to log into a portal using their Passport York ID to review their results again, see average scores for all respondents and view additional resources for each dimension of the survey. Those resources include some fantastic new videos that feature continuing student role models.

The Student Self-Assessment Survey serves multiple purposes. For one, it is helping us learn a lot more about our students and what they need to be successful. It also, however, helps develop agency (or resourcefulness) in our students, making them more self-aware and better equipped to seek out campus resources. Consistent with the Division’s commitment to evidence-based decision making and assessment, the survey and its outcomes remain a work in progress continually informed by student feedback. To date, it’s been very positive, with 78 per cent of respondents in 2015 agreeing or strongly agreeing that the site provided helpful resources, while 69 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the videos provided useful tips. Among the qualitative comments was the following:

The videos and links were very helpful and stirred up motivation in me to do a better job in University. Sometimes stress can cause the motivation to drop drastically, but seeing all the resources available on campus spurs a new fire at the core.

A hearty thanks to Mark Conrad and Michelle Miller for their tremendous leadership on this project. What a great, real-life example of our commitment to being Partners in Student Success.

Let’s Talk Divisional Values: Collaboration

A sign with the word "Collaboration" laid across a green, lined index card.

Embedded in the Division of Students’ strategic plan are seven values: respect, excellence, innovation, collaboration, accountability, care and inclusion. Individually and collectively, these values — nested deeply within those of York University as a whole — reflect who we are and who we aspire to be. Collaboration is particularly important because it describes how the Division will achieve its priorities.

Collaboration and cooperation reject competition as the best way to secure resources and achieve success. There’s a simple quote I like by the comedienne and actress Amy Poehler: “As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” That has certainly been my experience.

In the context of the Division’s work at York, I think about collaboration as a strategy for transcending silos and driving innovation (more on that value later!). Ample examples indicate how collaboration guides the Division of Students’ vision to be Partners in Student Success. One that comes immediately to mind is YU START, our flagship transition program that we profiled on this blog recently. Quite simply, YU START would not be possible without the engagement of key partners including associate deans, College masters, College Council presidents, Orientation chairs and a variety of student leaders. Working collaboratively and cooperatively, these women and men are challenging our amazing colleagues in the Student Success Centre to continually improve their programming for incoming students. All the while, they are supporting and fueling a student experience at York that stands out for its fresh ideas and supportive character.

Another great example is the York Orientation Directors Association (YODA), the group of student leaders who organize and deliver Orientation Week at York each fall. With representation from every College and several Faculties, YODA is accountable for pan-University decisions that have a significant impact on students and York as a whole. They take their responsibilities very seriously, particularly, for example, in the context of organizing large-scale evening events for thousands of students new to the independence of a university environment. They also live the adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We’re going to continue learning from their example, because, further to Amy’s quote, collaboration changes people and processes for the better.

Division of Students Ice Cream Social

What better way to celebrate summer and the spirit of collaboration and community than with cool, sweet treats and games outside? That is exactly what happened  yesterday, July 20, on the lawn in front of the Bennett Centre when VP Students Janet Morrison invited all members of the Division to the 2016 Ice Cream Social as a token of thanks for the work done daily to support student success at York University.

We captured a few moments of the afternoon on camera. Find a sample below and the entire set on Flickr. Enjoy!

 

Division of Students Ice Cream Social, July 2016-01305Division of Students Ice Cream Social, July 2016-01267Division of Students Ice Cream Social, July 2016-01266Division of Students Ice Cream Social, July 2016-01297Division of Students Ice Cream Social, July 2016-01286Division of Students Ice Cream Social, July 2016-01272