Tag Archives: 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.

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 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.

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

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

Back to Class 2015

We are fast approaching the start of what promises to be another exciting academic year at York. The summer flew by! I really hope you found time to relax and rejuvenate in the sunshine and warmth. I spent more time in the city this year because my son Bennett was playing a lot of baseball. Conveniently, this allowed the whole family to enjoy the Pan Am Games; one or more of us saw the opening ceremonies, archery, beach volleyball, track & field, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, competitive swimming, diving and baseball. Without exception, I was impressed by the venues and inspired by the athletes – particularly those who boast a connection to York! I’m not sure how I feel about an Olympic bid, but for those weeks in July and August, I felt a renewed sense of pride in being a Torontonian.

But now, September has arrived and a fresh new cohort of students has landed on our campuses. On Saturday – in wicked heat – 1,200 Orientation Leaders and the Residence Life team helped 2,213 students move in to our buildings – we’re full and managing a wait list! Throughout the day, President Shoukri and I hosted orientation sessions for 1,100 parents and an ambitious schedule of programming commenced Saturday afternoon to help the class of 2019 transition to University.

Orientation at York
Orientation at York

Central to this has been the incorporation of our flagship transition program, YU START, which includes three components: online enrolment; online learning communities; and, an on-campus orientation experience. The program’s outcomes – as assessed by York’s Institute for Social Research – are really impressive so we’ve expanded again to include more than 8,000 students from seven Faculties.

This year, the third component will happen TODAY (Tuesday, September 8) on York Orientation Day, when we’ll host one of Canada’s largest ever student orientation events. The incoming class will be welcomed by University leaders at New Student Convocation (including a full academic procession!) and educated about York’s community expectations, including consent. In the process, they’ll meet and bond with their peers.

This programming is key to our Strategic Plan and, specifically, our student success priority focused on the First-Year Experience. Please join me in thanking our colleagues in Student Community & Leadership Development, the YU START leadership team and our Faculty/College partners for their tireless efforts to re-vision transition programming at York. With Lizzio’s Five Senses theory as our guide, we’re actively partnering with students to fuel success.

New friends at York Orientation. Image by Michael Kasaboski.
New friends at York Orientation

This isn’t the only area where we’ve made significant progress. Across the Division, we’re championing and advancing projects related to enrolment management, student financial support, and career and leadership development. We’re equally focused on our enablers, including valuing people and resource integration. As a team, we have earned a reputation for being respectful, accountable and collaborative. We aspire to excellence, foster innovation and are inclusive. We care . . . about our students, our colleagues and York’s reputation. I say this all the time, but I am tremendously proud of our collective contributions to moving York forward, and of our work on behalf of the students we serve.

Next year promises to be busy and exciting: we’re launching a new brand that will be reflected in all our recruitment materials; work on York’s Mental Health Strategy continues; and the Division recently launched a new program to establish individual and team objectives.

Here are some other key initiatives of import to us and our Vision:

  • We will continue to lead – in concert with the Provost, the Office of Institutional Planning & Analysis, and Enrolment Planning Group – the implementation of York’s Strategic Enrolment Management Plan. To be blunt, we need to focus squarely on the student experience and process improvements across the enrolment continuum.
  • Every campus in Canada has reaffirmed its commitment to addressing sexual violence. York has been a leader in this area and will continue to innovate. Last February, York’s Board of Governors approved the “Sexual Assault Awareness, Prevention, and Response Policy.” Over the coming months, we’ll continue to move forward across three key areas:
  • education and awareness;
  • policy/procedures implementation and reporting; and
  • support for survivors.

This has long been a personal cause for me and I’m proud to be a member of the Council of Ontario University’s Working Group on Sexual Violence.

  • In May, 2015 the Government approved funding for a York University campus in Markham. I’ll be relying on Catherine Salole from SCLD and our new University Registrar – Carol Altilia – to help vision the delivery of student services for learners at the new site. It’s exciting, but the planning timeframe is ambitious.
  • Last but certainly not least, you’ll have read the President’s statement on a draft Institutional Integrated Resource Plan, which includes (among others) priorities related to academic advising, degree complexity, teaching & learning and becoming more student-centric. These are of particular and significant importance to colleagues and units across the Division. We’ll hear more from the Provost and the Vice-President, Finance & Administration on next steps later this month. In the interim, Brendan Schulz and I are meeting with key leaders to think about how we might reimagine engagement to make York the most student-centric commuter campus in the country.

I thank my colleagues for everything they do, on a daily basis, for our students and for the Division as a whole. I know how hard they work and that the next few weeks will be taxing. When tiredness sets in, I encourage everyone to reflect on the many ways the Division of Students is advancing York’s mission by providing services, programs and facilities that foster academic success, student development and an engaged community. We support and inspire students to contribute as global leaders. Three years in to our strategic plan, I believe that we are delivering on our mission.

Be proud. Champion the values we hold dear and the work we do to ensure every student flourishes. Tell colleagues from other YU units, the high-school student on your street or a new professional aspiring to join our team.

Go Lions!