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Dillon Hall
Dillon Hall

March 2017

What we asked:

Who or what at the University of Windsor has helped you to stick with it?

We want the University of Windsor to become an increasingly attractive learning environment for students. Attracting new generations of students is obviously a big focus for us. But keeping students enrolled and deeply engaged – from first year to second, from second to third, and so on, right through to a timely and successful graduation – is even more important. 

We know that many different obstacles prevent or discourage students from progressing, year after year, toward their degree – personal, academic, economic.  We want to recognize and expand supports that have given students the resilience, confidence, and inspiration to persevere and to excel. So this month we asked what you think has worked for you. 

Here’s what we heard: 

Never mind the UWindsor hoodies, reading this month’s responses emphasizes that when it comes to sticking with it, a lot of people’s hard work and commitment make our entire campus community a winner.  We’re highlighting one “Who” and one “What” from the great stories we received.

The Who: Graduate and Teaching Assistants

This month’s first winning response came from Ashlea Mason, a first-year Psychology student, who summed up many students’ experiences of GAs and TAs helping them “stick with it”:  

As a first year student who struggled to adapt to the University student lifestyle, I have found it to be extremely beneficial to utilize the resources of my GAs and TAs. There is no one who understands the exact position you are in as student more than someone who is still a student themselves. What’s more, your GA or TA will be well versed in the content you are currently covering in class because they’ve been in that class too! It’s as easy as sending an email when you’re not too sure about something discussed in lecture. You can even set up a time to meet with your GA or TA to go over things in person. This is an excellent and invaluable resource that I believe every student should take advantage of. Not only can a student gain knowledge from the experience, but they can also feel reassured that they can then apply that knowledge in the classroom and in their day-to-day lives!

For some, being a GA or TA can also make the difference – as Jacquelyn Poulin put it, “what better way to master the basics, than to teach it, and help first-year students in the process?”

The What: The Aboriginal Education Centre – Turtle Island

This month we received many emails from students expressing the important role that AEC-Turtle Island plays in their campus lives.  Our winning response came from Brandon Bonnetplume (first-year pre Social Work), who wrote:

The University of Windsor has been an ideal learning environment that has helped me to excel in both my personal and academic goals. It has been four years since I attended a formal learning institution, because I have been working. Since being back in a school environment the staff and people at Turtle Island have been a huge help in getting on track, as well as providing tools and assistance to help me stay on track career-wise. For example, when I wrote my first university style paper the students and staff at Turtle Island were eager to help, telling me what professors expected, as well as going through technical aspects, such how and when to cite references. They also suggested I take my paper to the Writing Support Desk to get it checked out, which was a resource that I would not have been aware of had it not been for the personnel at Turtle Island. Overall these people and staff have been an enormous help in enabling me to realize both my potential as well as providing the resources and advice to help me succeed.

Students who wrote in about the Aboriginal Education Centre described staff who had confidence in them and offered practical assistance on everything from academics to financial aid. They described the AEC as a place they could go to destress and unwind – a welcoming place where they feel they fit in and belong, where they can stay connected to their traditions and cultures. The friends they’ve made there help them stay motivated. For some, connecting with AEC starts even before they arrive. Destiny Soney, a second year environmental engineering student, told us, “I got the opportunity to be a part of the Aboriginal Leadership Program in my 2nd year of High school. We explored the different programs and facilities on campus. The experience gave me the confidence I needed to see myself in a post-secondary institution, particularly the University of Windsor.”.

What others said:

Many students wrote in to tell us about an individual – staff or faculty member – who helped them either through a single rough patch or throughout the course of their whole learning journey.  These stories were a powerful reminder of the impact each of us can have on others, sometimes without even knowing it. Students described how these people gave them strong reasons for sticking it out, how they motivated them, inspired them, showed them alternate career paths, and just made themselves actively and encouragingly available whenever students needed help.  Others talked about working or volunteering on campus, or the friends they made, or the clubs they joined.  As Brandin Halin (B.Comm ’17) put it, “Being at UWindsor, taught me the importance of putting yourself out there. Whether it's introducing yourself to the person sitting next to you or even raising your hand in class, a step outside of your comfort zone can significantly change your life in ways that were once unimaginable.”

Here’s what we’re doing:

The University offers a wide range of programs intended to help student to “stick with it.” These programs provide academic and social support, opportunities to develop strong networks of peers, and opportunities to take part in high-impact practices such as service learning, undergraduate research, and work placements. These practices help students to become deeply involved in their learning, while also fostering strong relationships with others on campus.

Peer mentorship programs provide academic and social support across the University:

  • The Connecting4Success Mentorship Program offering one-on-one support to first-generation students through workshops, wellness sessions, academic help, and social events.
  • The Kin-One Experience in which mentors help first-year Human Kinetics students transition to university, connect with other students, and generally “become a member of the HK family.”
  • The Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Mentorship Program is a course-integrated peer-mentorship program working with nearly 500 first-year students annually.
  • The HOUSE program in the Odette School of Business places all first-year majors with a “house” or cohort and a trained upper-year mentor who supports their skill development and involvement with the academic, social and career elements of their programming.
  • The Faculty of Law Peer Mentorship program helps to ease the transition for first-year Law students who share similar academic and social interests.
  • The Nursing Peer Mentor Program offers peer-mentor facilitated lab skill practice.
  • A new initiative, the Bounce Back program, matches first-year students with trained upper-year student mentors who work one-on-one with participants to help them address the issues that led to academic hardship in first semester. In addition, the mentors will work with participants to set new goals for their second semester and develop strategies to achieve those goals.

Many programs help students navigate the university effectively and make more informed choices.  The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences’ Academic Advising Initiative focuses on the needs of first-year students, students on academic probation, and students with mental health concerns. The Engineering WinOne program is Engineering’s one-stop shop for orientation, academic advising, counselling and referrals.  The new Faculty of Science PASS program (Preparation for Academic Success in Science),  is a proactive approach to being successful in Science, offered during Welcome Week before classes begin.

Academic help is available from a range of sources, from the Math and Stats Learning Centre, to department specific tutoring in a range of fields, to student-led Exam Aid services through Students Offering Support to the more extended help offered through the University’s Student Support services.  

In every Faculty on campus, students are engaged in service learning, work-integrated learning, final-year culminating projects, and undergraduate research projects coordinated by faculty and staff. These projects help students to connect their learning on campus with their future plans, and build the networks and engagement with learning that helps them to ‘stick with it’.  Examples include Odette’s community consultation courses offered in collaboration with EPICentre, the school of Social Work’s Community-University Partnership for Community Development and Research, the many local and international service learning courses in Education, the hundreds of thousands of hours of practicum and internship placements undertaken professional programs, and public history and publishing internships in the Humanities. If you’re looking for more information about experiential opportunities, the Co-op, Career and Employment Services office can be a good place to start.  Thinking about an overseas semester?  Check out the Student Exchange website for more information!