Tag Archives: partners in student success

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.


  • 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.

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!




For further reading: