Memorial University students are gearing up for a return to on-campus activities.
Many students haven’t been on campus in more than 17 months. Some are in their second year of studies but have never been in a classroom or laboratory.
The transition to in-person learning is highly anticipated and will be a bit different from previous years.
A mix of virtual and in-person events
As students return to the St. John’s campus this week, there will be many supports in place.
Fall Welcome will kick things off on Tuesday, Sept. 7, with in-person and virtual events designed to help inform, engage, welcome and get students excited for campus life.
Events and programs like Café Concerts, Coffee Night socials, outdoor movie nights, academic matriculation and Peer Network are just a few that Student Life will be hosting.
“When Memorial moved to remote learning at the start of the pandemic, we were challenged to pivot and change how we offered our programming and services,” said Dr. Donna Hardy Cox, associate vice-president (academic) students.
“Based upon student feedback, we are offering both in-person and virtual events during this transitional semester. By offering a mix of the two, we are giving students the opportunity to do what’s comfortable for them.”
One of the hybrid in-person/online events is academic matriculation, a formal welcome to Memorial that celebrates the beginning of the student journey at university. A small number of students were in attendance; many others watched via Facebook Live.
“… being officially welcomed made me feel a part of the university right from the start.”
“We hoped to offer academic matriculation in person to all, but given limitations on how many individuals are allowed for indoor gatherings, we decided to offer both,” said Dr. Hardy Cox.
“That way, all students can participate, but in different ways, and families and supporters can also watch.”
One student who can attest to the value of participating in new student programs is Pajani Soobrayen, a incoming third-year bachelor of arts student.
“It reminded me that university is not just a place you end up at, it’s a place you’ve worked hard to get to and being officially welcomed made me feel a part of the university right from the start,” he said.
“It made me want to become involved as well, and now I’m an operation lead with the Student Experience Office within Student Life, helping to plan Fall Welcome events.”
Mentorship in place
Other hybrid events include the Peer Network, a student-engagement program that connects senior students with first-year students.
The program will be run mainly online for the fall, with the option for the newly trained mentors to connect in person with the mentees if they choose to do so.
“Thanks to MUN 101, I learned about … Peer Mentors, and am now involved with them.”
One of those former mentees is Sarah Duraid, a second-year biology student. She participated in MUN 101, Memorial’s high-impact orientation and transition program designed to help first-year students adjust to university life.
She says she enjoyed it so much, she signed up to be one of the 160 peer mentors who will help familiarize first-year students with university life.
“I was worried about my overall university student experience: networking, making friends and getting involved in university life, and wanted to find a way to get involved,” said Ms. Duraid.
“Thanks to MUN 101, I learned about programs like the Student Volunteer Bureau and Peer Mentors, and am now involved with them.”
Take a tour!
Personalized campus tours are also being offered for new and second-year students who haven’t been on campus before.
Tours help students navigate their course schedules, find classrooms and locate important campus landmarks. They are available to book now through the Navigate for Students app.
“There are so many resources available to students,” said Dr. Hardy Cox. “We developed an award-winning, one-stop-shop information hub called MUN Up, which students can access through a QR code. The Academic Success Centre is a great resource available to students with information on learning supports, academic help centres, on-campus study spaces for students taking remote classes and more.”
Academic supports are not the only resources available: the Student Wellness and Counselling Centre is available for virtual and in-person counselling and medical appointments to help students that may require health and wellness supports as they return to campus.
Expansion and improvements
“August has been a particularly busy month preparing to welcome first-year students, second-year students who are new to campus and all other returning students,” said Dr. Hardy Cox.
“We are excited for students to see expanded on-campus eateries, new facilities, new gathering places, expanded support services, health and dental facilities, and renovated housing and dining spaces for students living on campus,” she continued. “Our new strategic plan, Transforming Our Horizons, has been top of mind for our academic and administrative teams, who have been focusing on providing a dynamic student experience and inspired learning within a culture of service and well-being.”
“I believe your first week of university is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Memorial is also prepared to address COVID-19-related concerns and questions. Memorial is strongly encouraging students to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, if they haven’t done so already, and there will be COVID-19 awareness training for students.
Students can complete a module in Brightspace, which includes a COVID-19 awareness video that highlights safety measures and things to remember once on campus.
Mr. Soobrayen says he has missed campus a lot and is excited to welcome new students to Memorial “properly.”
“I believe your first week of university is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I look forward to putting a smile on new students’ faces and helping them in any way I can.”