Today’s blog post features a guest contribution from Teaching Commons @ York by Raymond Peart, ASD Coordinator at York University.
York University is committed to providing the student community with an accessible learning environment and offers innovative programs and services to help all students achieve their academic goals. York University is proud to support the new Strengthening Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders initiative that supports students with ASD (including Asperger’s) in their transition from high school into a postsecondary program. If you are a York Faculty member, it is important to be familiar with the learning support resources available to you and your students at York University.
Integrated support services are provided through the Strengthening Transitions for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders program for the full calendar year, starting in high school, as early as grade 10. Services range from individual, group and community resources. These services include, but are not limited to, mentorship programs, workshops and support groups as well as one-to-one coaching, parent information hubs, sensory spaces, therapy dogs and paid Work/Study opportunities. Programming is open to future and current students, as well as their families and communities.
This collaborative initiative is supported by York University, Seneca College, the Toronto District School Board, the York Catholic District School Board and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.
As Faculty at York University, you observe significant differences in development, ability, presentation of skills, social interaction, communication and behaviour among students within your classroom. Your experience has enabled you to develop a clear perspective on characteristics within the classroom that can be considered typical. Additionally, with the experience you have gained, you may observe that a student may present with variations from the rest of the class that are significant. Some of these variations may cause:
you to consider and stop to think about what you are seeing;
persisting disruptions and problems.
While some situations might be easy to determine, other situations may be subtler and/or difficult to explain. Consequently, there may be times when you don’t know what to do. When you have concerns about a student in this situation, it may be helpful to reach out to Student Accessibility Services (SAS) with your query.
York U’s fall 2017 term is coming to a close, and by now your student is likely preparing for final exams. They have been studying for more than three months, developing expertise in their chosen field and expanding their worldview. The exam period is an opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge they have gained, but it can also be a stressful time for students. York U has prepared the following tips for parents and families to help support your student through the exam period. In this end-of-term parent and family update, you’ll find:
As December 1 arrives, exam anxiety becomes one of the most common concerns for students. A little routine exam anxiety is not a bad thing; in fact, having a sense of urgency is actually beneficial in that it alerts your body to be prepared to mobilize energy stores.” Without a sense of urgency, students wouldn’t have the motivation to meet the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. If, however, the anxiety gets too overwhelming, you should encourage your student to take some proactive steps to cope with anxiety before and during exams.
Health comes first
Often parents place emphasis on success and achieving exceptional grades, but the best advice you can offer your student is to make sure they make self-care their priority. Here are some tips you can share with your student to help them optimize their health and well-being:
Your student should always communicate with someone close to them when they feel stressed or anxious.
It is important that students avoid making important decisions when they are distressed or feeling overwhelmed.
Exercise can help reduce stress by releasing endorphins and increase blood flow to your brain for improved cognition.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can worsen anxiety and depression.
Last but not the least, your student should always remember that exam stress is only temporary and will eventually pass. At one point or another, the dark clouds will give way to sunshine and perhaps even a rainbow!
Tips for getting a good night’s sleep
Sleep is the most important thing that students often forgo in order to study, complete assignments or enjoy a night out. However, the quality and quantity of sleep a student gets determines how effective they will be the next day. Sleep is also necessary for consolidating memory, diminishing stress, restoring the body’s energy supply and repairing muscles and tissues for optimal functionality. If your student is not getting at least seven hours of sleep, let them know that altering their sleep habits, schedule and day-to-day routines can have huge impact on the quality of their night’s rest. Here are some things your student can do to get a good night’s sleep.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule – Set a regular bedtime, wake up at the same time every day (even on weekends) and take 20-minute power naps to make up for lost sleep.
Use your bed for sleep only – Your student should avoid using their sleeping space for doing work, eating or watching TV as it will be harder for them to unwind when it’s time to hit the hay.
Naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle – During the day, increase light exposure by spending time outside and have a well-lit workspace with sources of natural light to help your student feel awake and alert. Your student can also enhance melatonin production at night by turning off television and computer screens as well as by avoiding reading from back-lit devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Try some relaxing bedtime routines – Before going to bed, your student can create a relaxing, noise-free environment and wind down by reading a book, listening to soft music, taking a warm bath or doing some light stretches.
Eat well and exercise – Avoid eating heavy meals at night and limit caffeine intake in the evenings. Exercise regularly as even 20-30 minutes per day can result in a deeper and more rejuvenating night’s sleep.
York University has made WellTrack™ – an online resource for managing stress, anxiety and depression – available to students. WellTrack™ is a secure and anonymous way for users to assess their personal well-being and quickly gain access to resources tailored to meet their individual needs. Students are able to engage in self-guided therapy and interact with tools designed to help them adjust their thoughts and behaviour. The app also includes a Moodcheck tool to help build a database of people, places, and things that are positive and negative for your mental health. Other components include a Zen Zone (for meditation), a Thought Diary and Activity Scheduler. WellTrack™ is available as an app and as a website at welltrack.com.
Motivation During Exam Season
If you can’t fly, then run,
If you can’t run, then walk,
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
But whatever you do,
You have to keep moving forward.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Your student might be starting to get homesick, lonely or frustrated with all the work that University brings. They may not have seen their friends in a while or had the chance to spend a night out free of worries. At this point, there is one thing that can get them through exams: motivation.
No, not a “coach-yelling-at-you-from-the-sidelines” kind of motivation, but an internal desire that pushes you to attain success. We absolutely cannot emphasize enough the significance that motivation plays in your student’s success. University students who lack motivation can unfortunately run into numerous social and academic difficulties, but this piece will help you avoid this by providing you with ways in which your student can stay motivated!
The first thing to recognize is that there is only one type of motivation and that is self-motivation. Family, friends or co-workers can help your student get excited to accomplish a certain task, but at the end of the day your student will have to channel their own willpower to get the job done.
Secondly, it is important for your student to establish a strong, compelling and personal “WHY” for being at university. This will give them something concrete to focus on and serve as the light at the end of the tunnel when they are feeling down. One of the best ways of staying motivated is to be surrounded by others who are motivated. Your student should establish friendships with those who are also academically motivated and willing to help them when they need inspiration. They can also find a mentor who will be available to talk when your student feels they need a fresh perspective.
Most importantly, tell your student that they should never let failure discourage them. It is vital to stay positive, celebrate successes and learn from mistakes. The biggest key to success is: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Last, but not the least, encourage your student to focus on what their future will hold if they continue to work hard and accomplish their goals. Start by first looking toward the near future for motivation, which could involve an upcoming fun weekend or a night out with friends after exams. Then, gradually increase the timeframe – one month, one year, four years (graduation!), ten years – until they have created a picture of their career path and the successful future that can serve as an excellent motivator in the present.
Weather Conditions & Safety
During the winter months in Canada, it will get darker out earlier in the day and there is an increased chance of inclement weather. For these reasons, it’s important to keep safety top of mind and to be aware of York’s various safety resources and procedures.
In the case of a weather event or an emergency on campus, York University has various methods of keeping students, faculty, staff and their families informed. Information is made available through:
In weather or emergency situations, you’ll also find information regarding class scheduling and examinations on the Registrar’s Office website.
Ongoing personal safety is also important.
If your student needs to get to their car or another location on campus after dark and doesn’t feel safe doing so by themselves, they can take advantage of York’s goSAFE service, one of the largest services of its kind in Canada. This year-round operation sends two staff members to your location to accompany your student on their walk to another building, the bus stop or car. They can be reached by phone (416-736-5454) or via the York U Safety App.
The York U Safety App is a must for all students with smartphones. It provides direct calling to campus security and goSAFE as well as campus weather information and access to all other campus safety-related services.
Between the new subway station, the construction of a new student centre and the expansion of the Schulich School of Business on campus, York University has some significant changes on the horizon. One such change directly benefits students: York’s Senate has passed a student-led proposal to reinstate a full Fall Reading Week beginning October 2018.
The final proposal to amend the Senate Policy on Sessional Dates and the Scheduling of Final Examinations was brought before Senate in October 2017, where it was passed with full support. The decision to schedule two full-length Reading Weeks is in response to the needs of students and is intended to support academic success and student wellness by providing a more effective study/revision period.
Supporting Student Initiatives
There are many benefits to having a full Fall Reading Week. Students will have more time to prepare for midterms, complete important assignments and prepare for the remaining assignments in the term. The driving force behind the longer break, however, was to help students balance their academic progress with awareness of health and wellness. With a few extra days to revise during the Fall term, students will have more opportunities to access key academic support services and decompress, easing academic strain. York University places a high emphasis on supporting student health and wellness, which is integral to their academic success.
Carol Altilia, Registrar of York University, spoke about the significance of the move towards a full Fall Reading Week: “Supporting this student-led initiative underscores the importance that the Division of Students places on partnering with students to advance their matters of concern and emphasizes the University’s commitment to supporting student wellbeing and mental health.”
The impact of the change includes a number of adjustments to Orientation scheduling and modifying the means by which the study day between the end of classes and the first day of exams will be provided to all students. For more information regarding York University important dates, visit the Registrar’s Office website.
York University provides students with a range of health and wellness resources to create a healthy, inclusive and supportive environment that fosters well-being among members of the York community and contributes to students’ academic success. Lucy Fromowitz, Vice-Provost Students, and Dr. Marc Wilchesky, Executive Director, Counselling & Disability Services, are pleased to announce the following organization changes to better serve the needs of York U students.
Effective immediately, Learning Disability Services (LDS), Mental Health Disability Services (MHDS) and Physical, Sensory & Medical Disability Services (PSMDS) will be collectively renamed “Student Accessibility Services” (SAS) and Personal Counselling Services will now be called “Student Counselling & Development” (SCD). These changes will help students and the University community easily identify the appropriate support provider for students’ specific needs. Note that the Glendon campus will continue to provide health, wellness and accessibility services on that campus under the current name of The Accessibility, Well-Being & Counselling (AWC) Centre.
Maureen Barnes, current manager of Learning Disability Services, will assume the role of Director, Student Accessibility Services to ensure an efficient and effective transition of York’s three separate accessibility service units into one department that will deliver consistent and transparent services to students. Karen Swartz and Mark Mingail will continue in their current leadership roles in SAS. Polly MacFarlane, current director of Personal Counselling Services, will assume the role of Director, Student Counselling & Development.
The realignment of SAS includes developing a new communications plan to help all members of the York community differentiate between accessibility services (learning; mental health; and physical, sensory and medical) and counselling services. Although SAS will no longer use the various unit names (Learning Disability Services, Mental Health Disability Services and Physical, Sensory & Medical Disability Services), each of those teams will remain intact and will continue to support students as they do currently.
York’s decision to position the two support pillars – Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and Student Counselling & Development (SCD) – is in keeping with an ongoing transition throughout the postsecondary education sector in both Canada and the United States. Current scholarship and industry practice points to a shift away from the use of the term “disability” when describing services and resources toward the more inclusive term “accessibility.” The name change to Student Accessibility Services emphasizes the significant role of the accessibility unit in helping to make the campus more accessible for learning. The name change to Student Counselling & Development better reflects their mandate to help York students realize, develop and fulfill their personal potential in order to maximally benefit from their university experience and manage the challenges of university life.
These organization changes, in turn, support and align with the Division of Students’ vision – to be Partners in Student Success.
Changes will roll out gradually in digital and print communications over the next month and be complete by the New Year.
Today marks the first day of the 2017 Ontario Academic Advising Professionals (OAAP) Conference at York University’s Keele Campus! Hosted over the next day and a half – October 26 to October 27 – the conference welcomes delegates from colleges and universities across Ontario to discuss developments in academic advising. Notable keynote speaker and York alumnus, Tim Cork, will jumpstart the discussion with an inspiring welcome, followed by 27 workshop sessions developed and led by advising and student services practitioners from across the province.
The conference theme “All Together Now” represents the OAAP’s focus on collaborative, inter-institutional learning and the development of integrated and holistic advising practices that will benefit students. Conference attendees will learn about developments in academic advising that will enhance the student experience, including innovations in mental health and wellness, integrating theory into advising practice, models of advising service delivery, communities of practice and advising techniques and approaches.
The 2017 OAAP Conference was conceptualized and planned by York’s very own academic advising community. Over the past few years, York’s advisors have been coming together as a community to discuss issues, leading practice and to share in advising professional development. Some notable outcomes of working together have been the establishment of a University-wide advising professional development competency framework, the launch of a series of professional development opportunities tailored to advisor needs and an annual internal advising conference.
Academic advisors: We warmly welcome you to York University and hope you are ready to delve into insightful presentations and engage in discussions around how together we can strengthen advising practice in Ontario!
The OAAP is dedicated to positively impacting the educational experience of postsecondary students in Ontario and provides academic advisors with professional development opportunities to learn about new strategies to improve and enrich the student experience.
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.
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!