Category Archives: Posts by the VP Students

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

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.

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

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.

Exploring Pathways to Career Success for Students with Disabilities

White glass indoor bridge leading up to a doorway opening in a white wall

Earlier this month, I finished my term as the Chair of the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (H-B) Board of Trustees. Volunteering at this outstanding organization has taught me so much about care for kids with disabilities, their goals and aspirations for the future and — perhaps most importantly — the resilience of the families who rely on H-B for a wide array of services and supports. During my years of service, I have been humbled by their endless courage and strength.

When I met recently with members of the Family Advisory Council to seek their input on the hospital’s 2016–2017 priorities, “transitions” emerged as a dominant theme. Specifically, clients and families expressed concerns about how kids with disabilities transition out of the pediatric health-care system into adult services, and out of secondary school to postsecondary education and/or into the workforce. This last issue was particularly important to parents: individuals with disabilities are significantly underrepresented in the workforce and can face challenges with the job-search process.

At York, equipping young people with the tools they need to lead fulfilling professional and personal lives is one of our priorities. Through a multitude of means, we are working to provide particular support to students who might face special challenges. One specific example is the Disability & Career Committee, which was established in 2010 and includes representatives from Counselling & Disability Services (CDS) and the Career Centre (CC).

The goals of the committee are twofold:

  1. to create an event that would provide York students with disabilities (e.g. physical, learning, mental health) with an opportunity to connect with employers, community service providers and employees to learn more about employment supports, workplace disclosure and accommodations in the workplace;
  2. to build partnerships with community agencies and employers that support students with disabilities, not only to nurture these relationships for future career opportunities but also to build York’s reputation as a professional and supportive environment in which ALL students have equitable access to a range of campus services that assist in facilitating their success.

Smiling woman sitting behind a sign saying "Devices 4 Disabilities" and in front of a CDS banner

To further both aims, we started small in 2011 — with a panel discussion that attracted nine students with disabilities and four community partners/employers. Five years later, that event has evolved into a full-day symposium, the Career Success Symposium for Students with Disabilities, with a keynote speaker, breakout sessions and increased participation from both students and community partners. In 2016, the event featured as its keynote speaker Michael Landsberg, a Bell Let’s Talk spokesperson and the host of Off the Record on TSN; 101 students participated and 14 employers/community partners attended. This marks fabulous progress on our strategic plan to be Partners in Student Success.

This event evolved from a strong partnership between two units within the Division of Students in which we shared our areas of expertise to help meet students’ needs and to encourage their success. We have also created lasting partnerships with community agencies and employers, further strengthening York’s reputation and building future opportunities for York students.  While the symposium takes place once annually, it has created awareness about and “opened doors” to the many workshops and services offered at the Career Centre throughout the year.

The event has also fostered professional development. While the Career Centre has one staff member with expertise in serving students with disabilities, the symposium provides more exposure to these students. As a direct consequence, the whole CC team has gained tools to better support this cohort in their career exploration and job search.

Two young men standing in front of a projected image thanking participants for joining attending the symposium of career opportunities for students with disabilities

Student participants found great value in the event, as these select testimonials from the 2016 event make clear:

Thank you so much. . . . The event was really awesome, and it was a pleasure meeting all the other attendees and hearing about the different services that work to help create an accessible environment for job-seekers with disabilities. I really appreciate all the planning that went into this event; everything was so well coordinated as well. Thank you.

—Tyler Cenac

 I left the event feeling empowered about my future. The event introduced me to resources I didn’t even know existed. Michael Landsberg was such an inspiring speaker. Meeting him has allowed me to meet someone in my area of interest. The workshops were beneficial, as we got to explore areas of interest or weakness in a smaller group.

Ian Wilgus

The career symposium was a great experience for students with disabilities, as it was very uplifting and a morale booster, because you were around like-minded people coming from different walks of life. They were all battling different obstacles to make a mark for themselves, and this gave an opportunity for everyone’s true potential to come out. . . . I felt like employers, organizations and fellow colleagues were looking past these visible and invisible disabilities to be able to give individuals advice on the basis of their merits.

Alamgir Khandwala

Attending the career success symposium at York University for students with disabilities really impacted the way I see myself achieving my career goals and being successful in the workplace. Getting information from various employers about work accommodations and when to disclose to a potential employer was truly empowering. These tips helped me consider the contributions I can make within an organization by knowing how my disability affects me, using my skills and working to my strengths. Most importantly, the takeaway message for me was that as a person with a disability, I can move forward and achieve my career goals successfully and feel confident in applying to a number of opportunities available in the workplace.

—Esther Lawrence

Please join me in congratulating those members of the VPS team who have contributed to making this event happen, and the students who made the time to participate. My hat goes off to all of them!

 

Janet

 

For further reading:

 

Let’s Talk Divisional Values: Care

Scrabble pieces spelling "Care"

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.

In this context, care is both a noun (serious attention applied to doing something correctly) and a verb (to feel concern; to look after and provide for the needs of). Both uses are central to fulfilling our vision to be “Partners in Student Success.” Demonstrating care — by being thoughtful and considered in what we do and how we do it — is fundamental to engagement and success. In a nutshell, students excel when they believe that people are attending to their needs and are invested in their well-being.

In recent years, campus colleagues have been testing a number of hypotheses about how to support students who are at risk of failing a course or becoming academically ineligible to continue. Faculty leaders in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science and in the Department of Biology, for example, have twinned early alert systems with a suite of academic-recovery interventions. A number of Colleges — including Bethune, Calumet and Stong — have implemented an array of retention initiatives, including peer mentoring and supplemental instruction. These efforts reflect York’s commitment to fostering student success. At the end of the day, however, here is what ongoing assessment has revealed: academic performance is positively impacted by even the smallest expression of interest and concern.

We show that concern by making available to students invaluable services through departments such as Counselling & Disability Services, the Office of Student Community Relations, York’s RED Zone and Registrarial Services, and in partnership with other important on-campus partners (i.e. Learning Commons, Community Safety, dean’s offices). We can and must, however, also demonstrate that interest in our everyday interactions by listening to students, showing empathy, coaching them toward solutions or simply greeting them with a smile.

Caring matters and must continue to guide our work.

Warmly,

Janet

Things to Remember in the Face of Orlando

York University Sign 2 (for Just Janet blog post)

I hugged my children and cried last night as I watched the London Gay Men’s Chorus sing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at a vigil for Orlando in the United Kingdom. In the face of hate and unfathomable violence, the strength and compassion of the LGBTQ2S community shone like a beacon of light. Like President Shoukri, Provost Lenton and Vice-President Brewer last night, I want to extend my condolences to the families of those killed on Sunday, as well as my unwavering support to LGBTQ2S students at York, in Toronto and around the world.

York University is a large, richly diverse learning environment; collectively we hold sacred the values of respect and inclusion. Students, faculty and staff on our campuses pride ourselves on working hard to create safe spaces for everyone. Particularly in this time of shock, sadness and profound grief, however, please take the time to be there for your peers and colleagues — at York, let’s make sure that community remains the fulcrum of support and engagement. Also remember that if you would like to talk to someone, you should contact Personal Counselling Services, the Office of Student Community Relations or Good2Talk.

If you’d like to talk to me personally, email me at vpstdnts@yorku.ca or call me at 416-736-5955.

Please take care of yourself and each other.

Janet

Clear Pathways Help Guide and Facilitate Student Success

Colleagues,

Last spring at this time, final preparations were underway to ready the campus for hosting the PanAm/Parapan Am Games. The primary focus was our new stadium: temporary seating was duly installed, fencing went up and the entire site and much of the broader campus were brightened with PanAm banners to celebrate the Games. Something else really fabulous happened at the same time: pedestrian pathways! Combined with new signage, these were installed to help people – most notably newcomers and visitors — find their way to and from the event. It seems simple, but, given the size of our campus, and in the absence of a clear and accessible path, people get lost. The pathways were a significant advance, one that is showing long-term impact.

Tw students walking toward baloon-decorated bookstore on Keele campus

Providing a clear pathway to people new to a postsecondary learning environment is equally crucial. Research tells us that students who are effectively onboarded to university are more successful: they persist at higher rates, they have higher grade point averages (GPAs) and they’re more satisfied. The positive response from our students is one reason why we’ve invested so much time and energy in our flagship new student transition program, YU START.

 

It was like a checklist for me. If you follow all the steps you can independently prepare yourself for school. I just felt lucky to have it, because my parents didn’t understand how to help me with things like enrolment, course selection and, most importantly, financial aid. YU START provides links to OSAP and requires you create a student financial profile to apply for bursaries and scholarships, which was key.

Jesse Amankwaa, Health & Society, member of the York Lions Football Team

 

There are three components to YU START: online enrolment, a virtual learning environment and York Orientation Day. When experienced together, these elements intend to help students transition successfully to York University by focusing on the five senses that Alf Lizzio argues are key: a sense of purpose; a sense of connectedness; a sense of resourcefulness; a sense of academic culture; and a sense of capability. To help new students navigate unfamiliar terrain, YU START is a tool for distributing information about learning-skills programs, disability services, financial literacy, career development, the libraries and how the Colleges contribute to student success. It includes modules that teach new community members about what will be expected of them in a first-year course, the importance of providing feedback and making their voices heard, and about York’s intolerance for sexual violence. Fundamentally, YU START was designed to make newcomers feel welcome and valued. This is particularly important given the size, scale and diversity of our learning community.

 

I found YU START to be a wonderful and well-designed introduction to the various resources available to students. It definitely helped me to have a smoother transition to life at York U.

Mark Subekti, Finance & Business Economics

 

The numbers of learners impacted by aspects of YU START last year were impressive: more than 6,000 new students participated in online enrolment; nearly 4,000 participated in our online learning communities; 1,300+ completed the summer certificate program; 1,200 registered for campus tours; and there were more than 9,000 visits to York’s RED Zone last summer. Combined with a re-visioned approach to Orientation (that has been orchestrated in partnership with our amazing student leaders!), it is undeniable that we are positively impacting transitions to York. This speaks directly to our second strategic goal: By 2018, “all first-year students have access to programs that support their personal transition to York and foster their continuing success and engagement.”

Two women sitting in Life Sciences Building with a laptop and textbooks

So what is happening with YU START in 2016? On Monday, May 2, the YU START platform went live, and we began the process of enrolling and supporting thousands of new students who will make up our incoming class.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, Ross McMillan (Director, Student Engagement & First-Year Experience) wants you to know about a number of highlights and improvements to this latest version of YU START:

  • We have expanded our Faculty partnerships; Lassonde, Education and Science are now using parts of the platform (in addition to previous partners AMPD, FES, Health, LA&PS and Schulich).
  • There has been a major redevelopment of the Online Enrolment Tutorial to include video screencasts that explain how to enrol in classes, as well as clearer course-enrolment guides telling students which courses they are eligible to take (this was our #1 question from last year).
  • New and enhanced processes and content are included, including an ESL component, a designated Residence module and robust sections on Aboriginal Student Services and sexual violence.
  • Based in part on the success of the SCLD Accepted to 2019 Facebook Group, our online student community will be hosted on closed Facebook groups that are supported by trained YU START student leaders. There are 33 Facebook groups (determined by our Faculty partners). For those who do not wish to use Facebook, we still have a discussion board in the YU START platform.
  • Instead of giving students multiple links/sites to register for different Orientation programs, there will now be a single point of registration for Orientation programming housed in the platform. This will include registration for York Orientation Day, International Orientation, Mature Student Orientation and select College Council–sponsored social orientation programs.

If you are interested in experiencing the YU START platform, check out our demo site. Please note that you will need to complete at least one section of the “enrol here” portion to unlock the rest of the platform. The site is accessible to the York University community via Passport York. For external readers, contact Ross McMillan at rossm@yorku.ca if you’re interested in learning more about YU START.

(YORKU STUDENTS: if you’re reading this please use yustart.yorku.ca).

Close-up of YU poster in glitter

Two final points:

  • Please save the date: York Orientation Day is happening on Wednesday, September 7. This is the largest, centrally coordinated one-day event at York — more than 8,000 entering students and hundreds of staff and faculty are expected to attend.
  • Ongoing improvements to YU START would not be possible without the vision and engagement of our valued partners in the Division of Students, University Information Technology, Learning Technology Services, the Centre for Human Rights, York’s Faculties and Colleges. We would like to specifically recognize Brendan Schulz, Lara Ubaldi, Greg Langstaff and Pri Saini for their leadership and unwavering commitment to this project, as well as our YU START Student Coordinators Grace Olenja and Shikala Beare who are working with more than 50 YU START student leaders across campus.

YU START is a great example of how innovation, partnerships and planning discipline are driving the Division of Students toward the achievement of our strategic priorities. Go team! If you would like a presentation to your team about Orientation and YU START, please contact Ross McMillan at rossm@yorku.ca.

Warm regards,

Janet & Ross