O-Week changes in review

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Incoming first-year students were the first to experience a new structure to Orientation Week at Wilfrid Laurier University. Instead of having a full week of frosh activities, students were required to attend class on the Thursday and Friday, which ran simultaneously to passive O-Week programming.

Sam Lambert, president and CEO of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, said he believed the week went according to plan and succeeded in getting students engaged in events.

“Our goals are to get as many students as engaged as possible and make sure that they’re coming out to events and feeling as comfortable as possible on campus, and entering their first classes with an idea of what they’re doing and how they’re going to do it,” he said.

According to Lambert, feedback from professors and faculty have all been very positive, and having classes within O-Week helped students prepare for their first semester of university. However, some first-year students felt overwhelmed by the academic priority that was included in their first week.

“I felt like O-Week was a little bit more academic-based, and me and my roommates felt like we weren’t settled in or in the right state of mind to be going to classes yet,” said Lyndsey Allingham, a first-year business student at Laurier.

According to Lambert, having the Get Involved Fair placed on the first day of classes as passive programming made it easier for first-years to track down O-Week volunteers to ask them questions about campus.

But there were small issues with starting classes during the week of O-Week, one being that more staff were on campus so parking was more difficult for the Get Involved Fair.

“In the past, we’ve had no trouble getting room bookings because there are no classes going on,” Lambert explained. “So that was a little bit difficult with classes starting on Thursday.”

Even with the small troubles, Lambert said the schedule didn’t change much because of the passive programming, and students could come and go to events as they pleased.

Overall, except for a switch in the mindset for people involved, Lambert said it was nothing the Union couldn’t handle.

“I think that students were engaged and they had a lot of opportunities, socially and academically, to kind of figure out where they want to be on this campus. I’d say anything that they didn’t think they’d got, please let us know because we’re always looking to improve,” he said.

Laurier’s Graduate Students’ Association also had their O-Week last week. Graduate students beginning their studies at Laurier were able to participate in professional development opportunities, networking experiences from other students and exploring the resources on campus.

Robert Bruce, president and CEO of the GSA, said their O-Week is quite different from the first-year experience.

“There’s an overlap between the orientation and resources and getting to know campus, but the heavier focus is placed on professional development,” he said,

Bruce explained their association is very diverse with a wide range of students, such as professional and PhD students, research-based students in one- or two-year programs and students in course-based programs.

“We have to orientate them all accordingly to their programs and to their needs.”

During their O-Week, the Graduate and Professional Studies Symposium allowed students to choose orientation pathways according to their needs. All the programming is based upon community, academics, resources and professionalization, and students can pick what programming they can get the most out of.

According to Bruce, the GSA tries to have a social side that ties similarly into first-year to get students to network.

“You’re coming here for the first time on campus; you’re getting situated in an experience you’ve never been situated in before, you’re meeting tons of new people, and for those who are commuting in first-year, that’s probably a little more similar to our situation because our students are not actually here on campus. They either live outside or are commuting from Toronto, Guelph or wherever it is.”

The GSA also held a patio party on the Thursday of O-Week in the Quad, where over 200 Laurier and University of Waterloo students attended events. Bruce stressed that having both universities present gave students the opportunity to network more broadly than the Laurier scope.

“The networking is so, so important and it just offers further opportunity for discussions about research from those who are returning and going to GPSS. Which is another difference as well, instead of everyone just being a first-year, we have those who are third-year PhDs who attend GPSS or second-year MAs coming back.”

With the first trial of the new undergraduate O-Week schedule completed, it will be up to coming years to decide how things can be further developed to encompass the earlier start in classes.

“Overall, I’m extremely happy with how things went,” said Lambert.

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