New Student Orientation sees changes

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UVic’s fiscal challenges, as announced last February, are expected to cause substantial reshaping of departments that affect the welfare of students, and the Division of Student Affairs is no exception. The Student Transition Services Department recently merged with the Student Recruitment Department, striving toward cost-effectiveness and higher signup for events.

“UVic attracts a very traditional university student, meaning students are coming directly from Grade 12,” says Director of Student Recruitment Carolyn Russell. It is crucial for Student Transition Services to ensure that the transition from being an admitted student to a registered student, which Russell refers to as “conversion,” is as smooth as possible. The reformed Student Recruitment Department is now combining those roles of Student Transition Services with its goals of encouraging new students to choose UVic and making them feel comfortable with their choice.

The orientation program and Week of Welcome festivities for this year mirror those of the previous year, but new approaches to provide more educational benefit with less budget investment are noticeable, especially with regard to New Student Orientation, which attracted nearly 3 000 students this year. Instead of being aimed at the entire university community, the annual tradition of the President’s Welcome Barbecue was marketed only to new students who registered for Student Recruitment events this year. The department has replaced entertainment skits about first-year challenges, originally run by the Theatre Department, with a new program called Campus Connections. This was done so that current faculty and staff can directly inform students about the kind of support available. Campus tour guides are encouraged to omit icebreaker games and focus on sharing practical knowledge. Opening convocation, which used to be the finale of the day, has been rescheduled to kick off the day at 11 a.m.

In addition to programming changes, budget reductions generated a structural realignment to support the areas where the department needs investments most. The Student Recruitment Department’s data over the past five years shows that while the department had no problem with recruiting students to apply to UVic, it was unable to increase the likelihood of setting students on a path to their successful university experience here. By merging Student Transition Services into the department, the Student Recruitment Department anticipates greater conversion through establishment of a welcoming atmosphere and helping to build connections between students. The department is also seeing increased input from other departments across campus, such as the Academic Advising Centre, Counselling Services, Athletics and Recreation, Health Services and Housing.

“We feel like this has been a real investment of [putting] more resources into orientation programs,” says Russell, who is now experiencing the busiest time of the year. There are still challenges left while the Student Recruitment Department adjusts to hosting the events. “An incredible amount of ideas have come forward. The challenge is now to really think about what the best programs to move forward with are, and how are we going to resource those programs to ensure success.”

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