Mission: Transition to UTM

three university students with facepaint smling
Tuesday, June 23, 2015 - 4:30pm
Blake Eligh

Students will find it easier to transition into academic life thanks to a one-of-a-kind program launching at U of T Mississauga in fall 2015. The newly created Office of Student Transition will be dedicated to supporting new students academically and socially, and will provide improved access to the many services available to them.

The transition office, which was announced in May, is a joint project of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs & Services. The pilot project with a dual appointment—a first for the university—was created on the recommendations of a 2013 working group that envisioned a central point to bring together all orientation and transition activities.

“It’s really about minimizing redundancy and confusion,” says Jackie Goodman, first-year transition and academic support coordinator. Previously, there were more than 23 different transition programs available to incoming UTM students. The new student transition team will coordinate those offerings, resulting in a streamlined program. “Transition and orientation has gained greater focus at U of T but, for the first time, we’re thinking strategically about a plan tailored to the UTM campus,” she says.

Calling the project “integrated and collaborative,” assistant dean of student affairs and services Dale Mullings says the transition office will be an important asset for new and current students at UTM. “The partnership will host a variety of program offerings, courses and initiatives designed to provide students with a strong academic, developmental and social foundation within a supportive peer-based learning environment,” he says.

The team is already planning big changes for new students arriving this fall. “Building pride at UTM is a big focus for us,” Goodman says. “When students feel connected to the university, their level of engagement, both in and out of the classroom, improves.” Part of the pride building exercise is a reimagined orientation program, increased from one to four days and with greater ties to the UTM Eagles athletics brand.

“For incoming students, this is a brand-new environment and we have so many resources available. That can be daunting,” Goodman says. The transition office will also coordinate student leaders for the Eagle-to-Eagle program, where student leaders personally call every first-year student to welcome them to UTM. “Students often have questions and they don’t know where to begin to find answers. Eagle-to-Eagle provides a personal touch, and connects new students to someone who can answer their questions.”

Beyond orientation, the transition team will streamline academic and social support programs, beginning with LAUNCH, a consolidated version of two peer-led initiatives: UTM ONE Connect and UTM FYE transition programs. LAUNCH will be the office’s largest offering, helping more than 600 incoming students connect to campus and transition into university life.

“We will help students adjust to university culture, inform them of the resources we have available, and help them become comfortable using those resources,” Goodman says. “This will help students build important academic skills, find their way around campus, and learn to navigate online resources and tools.” The office will also oversee and coordinate utmONE and utmONE Scholars for-credit transition courses. It is also developing a new mobile gaming app to help students familiarize themselves with campus and the services UTM offers, with a beta launch planned for this fall.

Student support doesn’t stop after first year, Goodman adds. The office will work with students at every step of their academic career, including upper-year transitions, and parent and family programming. “Students have a wealth of support during their first year, but they still have a yearning for community in their upper years,” she says. “We have identified a need and desire by upper-year students for a peer mentoring program, similar to utmPLUS, which helps students gain the skills they need to be successful in upper years at UTM.”

Goodman notes that all transition programs will be listed in a single spot—the transition office website.

The team will also track trends in student participation and adjust support programs accordingly. “We’ll be watching to see what students are looking for, and where our current gaps are,” Goodman says. The transition team will develop new leadership opportunities for students, including a student advisory board to identify and develop first year programming, and a second year ambassador team to support outreach initiatives. “We’re looking forward to learning more about the impact of the program,” Goodman says. “We’ll be learning more about who our students are and what they need from us.”