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Above and beyond

Student Experience Office recognized with president's Team Memorial Award

Student Life

By Elizabeth Furey

Memorial’s Student Experience Office (SEO) team are the inaugural recipients of the Team Memorial Award for the 2021 President’s Awards for Exemplary Employees.

The team from the Student Experience Office standing in the lobby of the Core Science Facility, spaced apart. Kaitlyn Hickey, Rhonda McMeekin, Lisa Russell, Julia Halfyard.
The Student Experience Office team from left are Kaitlyn Hickey, Rhonda McMeekin, Lisa Russell and Julia Halfyard. Missing from photo: Dr. Shannon Lewis-Simpson
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The team, comprised of Lisa Russell, Julia Halfyard, Rhonda McMeekin, Kaitlyn Hickey and Dr. Shannon Lewis-Simpson, led the creation of MUN 101: an online orientation and transition program designed to help first-year students become part of the Memorial community by helping them adjust to university life and get set up for success as the pandemic continued through spring 2020.

‘Belonging and normalcy’

“MUN 101 has been a successful initiative that delivered engaging student experiences and fostered a sense of belonging and normalcy in what has been some of the toughest times for any new student to begin their university journey,” said Dr. Jennifer Browne, director of Student Life. “The SEO team recognized the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presented, quickly transformed Memorial’s Welcome programming to create the online initiative and went above and beyond in developing the program.”

During a time when a large portion of students were unable to be physically present in St. John’s, this method of program design and delivery paved the way for new students to feel a part of the Memorial community, while showcasing the SEO team’s leadership in using existing technology to turn aspirations into reality.

“The SEO staff responded to the shift to remote learning with a focus on ensuring that incoming students in 2020 felt welcomed and prepared to begin their studies at Memorial University,” said Dr. Donna Hardy Cox, associate vice-president (academic) students. “It has transformed the first-year students’ welcome to Memorial and has provided incoming students from around the world with a truly equitable, accessible transition to the university.”

Demonstrated leadership

In developing MUN 101, SEO partnered with and co-ordinated the efforts of more than 21 units, nine faculties and three external groups.

With the invaluable assistance of the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, MUN 101 was created as a self-paced, comprehensive hub of information to allow students get acquainted with the resources available to them to successfully start their university journey.

“The SEO is dedicated to supporting student success and involvement,” said Dr. Hardy Cox. “Their success in establishing the necessary interdisciplinary partnerships and producing such quality work within the brief period of time reminds me once again of their preparedness to lead during times of innovation, change and inspiration. They pulled together amazing teams from academic and administrative departments to make this a truly “Team Memorial” effort.”

As an integral component of MUN Up, a tools and resources hub created to help students succeed while learning remotely, the Atlantic Association of College and University Student Services (AACUSS) recognized MUN 101 with the Award of Excellence in Student Services.

The award is given annually to recognize excellence or exceptional service through the development of a new initiative beneficial to student life directly or indirectly over the previous year.

“I could not be more supportive and prouder of the creativity and initiative displayed by Ms. Russell and the Student Experience Office team,” said Dr. Browne. “They are a dedicated team who are truly passionate about students and in addressing student needs.”

The President’s Awards will be presented at a ceremony at Signal Hill Campus on March 9.

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