YU START: Get Involved!

Posted by York & U on August 2, 2013

York & U

YU START is a brand new program established to help new York students transition into the university environment! YU START, originally crafted together and lead by a team of hard working York students and staff, is in action for Summer 2013!

The pilot is a three step process which equips students with what they need to transition into life at university. From enrolling, to doing well in classes, YU START sticks with students both online and in person throughout their transition experience.

The YU START program is offered this summer 2013, and currently includes the Faculty of Health, Faculty of Environmental Studies and the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies. Students are associated with a distinct YU START Online Learning Community and are also required to attend an on campus Making Connections session. Students apart of YU START are encouraged to check out YU START Online!

While this website is a resource designed specifically to support students involved in YU START, everyone is welcome to explore the materials contained on the website. However, only students involved in the YU START program are able to log in to this site, that is, for now!

I had the pleasure of interviewing three YU START leaders to explain the extraordinary program! Suzanna, a 3rd year student in the Environmental Studies program which is part of the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Haidar, a 5th year student part of the Health Sciences Faculty, and Kayla, a 4th year Criminology student part of the Liberal Arts and Professional Studies Faculty!

YU START Leaders: (left to right) Suzanna, Haidar and Kayla!

1. How many YU START leaders are there? Who is YU START organized by or who initially came up with the idea for the program?

Suzana mentions: “There are 18 YU START leaders divided within the 3 faculties associated with YU START. Initially our faculties or the associations we are part of contacted us to be leaders for this program! We also have a fellow Kinesiology YU START leader that is going into her second year of university. She was one of the participants of the pilot program that was launched last summer. She loved her experience with YU START and decided to pursue being a YU START leader and promote the program to help other new students! Her experience from the perspective of a student having completed the program has been a great asset to the team in helping us make improvements in perfecting its different aspects.”

2. As YU START leaders, how would you define the program and its mandate?

Haidar reaffirms the success of YUSart: “Students who have just come out of high school are naturally not equipped for the university environment. The YU START program gives them the knowledge and all of the help they need during the summer to prepare for the adventure they are about to embark at York University. The YU START program ensures that students have a smoother transition from high school to university. What I love most about YU START is that it means students will be attending their first week of school already knowledgeable about the programs their faculty offers, where buildings are around campus etc. Crucial information that many of us weren’t told about until we figured it out in our upper years!”

Suzanna adds: “There are tons of resourcces at York but they’re not always easy for first year students to find. What we do at YU START is try and create a hub for them and we went around and found all the services that had to do with the 7 courses that are apart of the faculties associated with the YU START program this year and put them all on our online website which participating students can access by logging in. Throughout the summer we are also in constant contact with these students via the YU START Facebook group. We mention for example, that students can attend tons of work-shops at the career centre before starting school! We try to keep students involved and engaged through the summer so that if they do have questions we are there to help them.”

Kayla states: ““The first thing we changed was moving the enrolment appointment online. Through out website, students are restricted from moving on to further steps in the enrolment process without watching the entire video that provides them with all the information they need to correctly enrol in courses. After each video students must complete a quiz based on the video’s content to ensure that they didn’t miss any information.

Second, is the online learning communities established through our YUStart

Facebook page, we have anywhere from 2-6 groups spread amongst our leaders.

Online, we have weekly learning outcomes that engage student participation.

These steps are also aided by blogs and YU START Vlogs prepared by our team of YU START leaders. Online, we have weekly learning outcomes that engage student participation. Through out website, students are restricted from moving on to further steps in the enrolment process without watching the entire video that provides them with all the information they need to correctly enrol in courses. After each video students must complete a quiz based on the video’s content to ensure that they didn’t miss any information.

Finally, on September 3rd, 2013, our third and final step will be having our Making Connections event on campus. This is where all students part of the YU START program will take part in a series of activities all over campus. We will be having what we refer to as “break-out sessions” where students will be in different areas of campus with their YU START leaders and be introduced to program information, finding classes, tips for academic success etc. Students will also be able to ask peers and upper level students any questions they have about beginning university.”

6. How are students chosen to be apart of YU START?

Suzanna: “Each week within our online learning communities we have a theme related to academic success or program information. For example, information about getting involved on campus. We supply students with a document outlining different activities and programs available and what they need to do to get involved around campus, be it through their colleges, finding on campus employment or being part of a student association. We build our content according to how much they are able to learn, this way we ensure they are getting enough information on different topics.”

An important fact to mention about the YU START program, is that it is solely a program which takes place during the summer between the start of university. For now, is only open to students who are right out of high school or students who have been out of high school without university or college experience yet. All students from the seven programs offered within the three faculties associated with our program are included in YU START.

Suzanna adds: “Since we know a small majority of students are not active on Facebook, we give them the option to receive a weekly newsletter outlining all the information of the theme from that week within the learning communities. We also have advisors on e-chats each week during different time slots so that students are able to talk to faculty advisors 101 about their questions. If there is ever any questions that we are not able to answer as YU START leaders, we have contacts in different programs so that we can guide and refer the students to another source of information.”

Haider: “We try to give students as much advice as possible. We do however mention that advice we give on courses or programs requirements are usually our personally advice. For example, the amount of courses students take depending on how involved they will be with within other school activities or a job. We can only truly advice what we have learned from personal experience, and always make sure that the have spoken to advisors in their program and faculty regarding the choices they make.”

7. When is the YU START team planning on expanding the program to all York University Faculties?

Suzanna: “YU STARTs goal for next year is esentially to open up to all faculties and include the Glendon campus. We feel that students have been very active in the YU START program and appreciate all they have been learning. By expanding to all faculties we will ensure that all students going into their first year of university will get the opportunity to gain knowledge for a smoother transition into university life at York through the YU START program!”

Kayla: “We have realized the students are quite appreciative about the support we provide them with. It is great for us because even as YU START leaders, we are gaining knowledge helping them on learning information about the beggging of their university experience.”

8. How would you differentiate YU START from other transition programs or activities such as Frosh Week, Campus Tours, York Fall Campus Day etc.?

Haider: “You can consider us a kind of unique directory for students!”

Suzanna: “We definitely promote them! We try to create close professional relations with leaders of other programs in order to gain knowledge about them to reiterate to the students part of the YU START program. As we mentioned, we are only a support system for these students in the summer before they begin university. This is why we are so supportive of the Colleges, Frosh Week, York Fest and other programs and activities on campus. Essentially, we consider it much like ‘passing the baton’ or students to these established programs and groups in September equipped with knowledge about the campus and academics. We try and filter them into their college communities by giving them all the needed information to do so smoothly before their first week of school! We introduce the school and it’s opportunities so that the colleges can be their continued support. We are all very excited about working together on such a fantastic project with a joint effort to ensure student success!”

I definitely learned a lot from YU START leaders Kayla, Haidar and Suzanna! The YU START program is very promising and will surely provide new first year students with all the knowledge, tips and genuine advice they need to excel academically in their courses and also take advantage of the tons of programs and associations open to students on campus! If you are a new student going into your first year of university, make sure to check out YU START!