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Student success

First Year Success program receives MUNSU award

Teaching and Learning

By Janet Harron

Memorial’s First Year Success program has been recognized for its outstanding contribution to student life with a special award from the Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU).

“We were delighted to hear that students had such a good experience in First Year Success and that they nominated us,” said Dr. Valerie Burton, academic director First Year Success.

The First Year Success team celebrates their MUNSU award.
The First Year Success team celebrates their MUNSU award.
Photo: submitted

“This affirms the positive comments we’ve received throughout the five years of this pilot project. MUNSU, too, was open to the idea that education is a team effort when it chose us for the award.”

The MUNSU awards, now in their ninth year, are the only awards for faculty and staff at Memorial that are entirely student-run. The awards are described as recognition of instructors and staff who have demonstrated a holistic understanding of the issues students face, and who have committed to supporting the needs of students and the goal of accessible post-secondary education.

Team effort

Among the program’s nominators for the award was Jason Pynn, who has just completed his first year at Memorial.

“It’s team effort that makes First Year Success what it is,” said Mr. Pynn, who is also a member of the FYS advisory committee.

“All the members of the FYS team are dedicated to student success. Instructors like Matthew Lidstone, Iain McCurdy and Dr. Burton really care about their students and prove it through their actions. Without their support I would not know how to write an academic paper, evaluate my sources or do proper research. The only reason I’ve found success at Memorial is because they showed me how to get it.”

Dr. Burton, administrative director Beth Ryan, academic advisor Denise Reynolds, and instructors Matthew Lidstone and Iain McCurdy were on hand to accept the award.

“I’ve not before witnessed this degree of concerted commitment to modify and change in light of considered feedback.” — Dr. Valerie Burton

There have been significant changes in the FYS program since it was first introduced in the fall of 2012.

“I’ve not before witnessed this degree of concerted commitment to modify and change in light of considered feedback from students, staff and faculty,” said Dr. Burton. “Our program has involved co-operation and integration across the university — from the 12 faculty members who “explain themselves” in Univ 1020, to the regular support services of the QEII, CITL, Academic Advising and Student Life.”

Strong performance

Offered on the St. John’s campus, students who complete the FYS program end the year with higher average grades (in all courses).

The FYS team working with students.
Photo: Submitted

When FYS students are compared with a similar group (those who entered Memorial with a less than 75 per cent average) who didn’t enrol in the program, the FYS students end the year with higher average grades (in all courses) and with a larger proportion eligible to return for a second year (in the order of 90 per cent).

Megan Power is a FYS student who will graduate this spring with a joint degree in business and psychology (HSS). She has been a Dean’s List student in each of her degrees and will begin a position as financial auditor with local accounting company Grant Thorton in the fall of 2017.

“The program quite simply, taught me how to be a student and as a result, gave me confidence.” — Megan Power

Initially enrolling in the program because her high school grades were “far from good,” Ms. Power says she never really cared for learning and figured entering the program couldn’t hurt.

Little did she know that FYS would set her on the right path for her entire university career.

“The program quite simply, taught me how to be a student and as a result, gave me confidence. FYS not only facilitated the achievement of my degrees, it also introduced me to a new world of learning,” said Ms. Power. “There is nothing more rewarding than putting an enormous amount of effort into something and it actually paying off.”

For more information on the First Year Success program, visit the website.


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