This year’s Create was very different from other years. Not only was there an added event for second year students who were not on campus last year, called Re-Create, but this particular orientation lost its traditional day due to the implementation of a (much-needed) reading break in November. “That meant that Create could not exist the same way that it had in previous years,” said Stefanie Allen, the manager of Orientation and Transition. Moreover, the latest COVID-19 restriction change before the event, held on the 5th of September, was August 13th. Allen explained, “We went from having the okay to do an outdoor, 5000 person event to having no more than 50 in the same space.” It took her and her team many hours to replan the event only two and a half weeks before it was supposed to happen.
Allen continued, “What we ended up focusing on at the end of the day is kind of going back to what students need when they come into university. They need social connection, they need to feel comfortable and welcomed into the physical space of campus, they need some information about resources, and they need guidance from upper year peers.” According to Allen, the main purpose of Create and Re-Create is to provide students an opportunity to connect with other students.
Having social experiences is extremely important as students adapt to university life. Some people will find deep and lasting relationships at university. Others will foster social networks that they could take advantage of later on. Allen’s advice for those who could not make it to Create or Re-Create is to not be afraid to seek help and to get involved. “The community is dependent on the engagement of students. So, the more highly engaged the student, the more vibrant the community,” she emphasized.
One of the best ways to proactively seek these opportunities is to visit Student Connect,
a new peer facilitated, ‘first stop’ program with the purpose of answering all questions students have about UBCO. Student Connect is located on the second floor in the University Centre, right by the stairs, with a centralized location that welcomes anyone and everyone who might need help. Your fellow peers working there will make sure you get to the right next place to go.
Liz Hilliard, the manager of Student Engagement, stated, “We want to make sure students have timely, accurate information, and we want to support them in making well-informed choices and taking advantage of everything that is available to them.” She continued, ”We are constantly referring students to places such as the Student’s Union to access their resources and support.” Student Connect works in collaboration with UBCO’s Student Union, more commonly referred to by students as the SUO, to serve and inform students.
Student Connect has also invited other student-centered offices to a hot desk. Situated adjacent to the Student Connect area, the hot desk allows for these programs, including the SUO, to share their programming, services and opportunities. Multiple offices in the UNC will use this desk at different times.
This program provides another resource for students to help navigate the many layers of university life, “If you have a series of questions, coming to speak to somebody in person allows for you to triage all of those questions at once as opposed to sending out disparate emails to different groups. We can get people connected,” explained Hilliard.
Student Connect’s opening hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 7:00pm. They also offer their services in various languages including Spanish, French, Punjabi, Hindi, Turkish, Arabic, and Bengali. What’s more, students who are not on campus can email all university related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . With overbearing schedules, students are accustomed to being in a perpetual state of mental fatigue. It is particularly useful, then, that students have a place to go and ask questions instead of having to do the research themselves.
Not only does Student Connect support students, but the students also provide valuable insight into the issues they encounter in their everyday university lives. Dale Mullings, the Associate Vice-President for Students, has provided an example of how useful the feedback from those on campus have been: “We learned early in September from our Student Connectors that access to informal study space was a key issue for students. As a result, by mid-September, we were able to work with partners across campus to open up additional space in the UNC Ballroom, Arts Atrium and Arts Lobby to benefit students requiring informal space to study and participate in classes.” This shows that while those working for Student Connect can recommend UBCO’s many services and programs, as well as give advice that they have learned throughout their university years, the students who visit Student Connect can also provide feedback and talk about their own experiences to make student life easier for all.