Students walking under a silver balloon arch that reads O-Week.

New students: Get the lay of the land at UTM

Sharon Aschaiek

For students who are new to U of T Mississauga, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed amidst all the processes to complete, deadlines to meet, and buildings and services to navigate.

But UTM’s comprehensive orientation program is designed to make sure you don’t feel alone, and have the knowledge and support you need to successfully transition to your new learning environment.

“Our goal is to fast track students’ knowledge of the UTM landscape, their understanding of the various departments and units, where to go to get their questions answered, and that they feel part of the community,” says Jackie Goodman, manager of orientation, transition and engagement at the Centre for Student Engagement.

Incoming new students at UTM are placed into one of 12 communities called “EagleSquads” (a nod to UTM’s Eagle mascot) according to their admit post, or general academic area. These squads are housed in Quercus, U of T’s online learning management system, where students receive important information provided by EagleConnect, the university’s pre-arrival transition program.

Two students stand in front of a large connect 4 game on a grassy area.
Students take in some games during 2018 orientation week. (File photo)

EagleConnect’s weekly modules feature videos, links, deadlines and interactive features on a different aspect of being a UTM student, such as course information, fees and finances, navigating campus, being an engaged student and wellness resources. Quercus is also where students can meet and get to know other students through synchronous activities. Students can also directly interact with their squad leader—typically an upper-year student or recent graduate—to ask questions and gain first-hand insights on learning and life at UTM.

“It’s about offering that personal touch,” says squad leader Sanjana Sundar, who graduated this year from UTM’s Digital Enterprise Management program. ”We’ve been through this, we were there. It’s about demystifying the whole process…and helping students feel more confident and prepared with everything they need to start their year.”

Headstart is another UTM orientation initiative that helps students meet the expectations of a university education. This week, the program will run several interactive online learning sessions on topics such as effective note-taking, writing lab reports, succeeding at math and academic integrity.

Another key way UTM helps new students acclimate is through EagleOrientation, which runs informational and social events from July to September to help students connect with their peers and become more familiar with campus services and supports. These include live and virtual events such as workshops on time management and manifesting a success-oriented mindset, hangouts focused on holistic health, and activities to welcome Black, queer and international students, students participating in UTM’s joint program with Sheridan College, and the families of first-year students.

A major part of EagleOrientation will happen on campus from Sept. 6 to 8, when students will get to tour campus, become introduced to their academic departments and professors, and explore ways to be an active UTM student at an involvement and resource fair. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, a specialized orientation will take place for international students.

During this time period, students will also hear an inspiring keynote speech by UTM graduate and spoken word poet Wali Shah, enjoy a barbecue and attend a carnival. The last of these is a paid admission event that is part of UTM Student Union’s own week-long orientation programming, and will include rides, games and snacks.

“We want to help students be reflective about and engaged in their learning, to think about who they want to be and what they want this experience to be like,” says EagleOrientation leader and UTM graduate Tiara de Konig, who this year earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology. “A university education is so rich, but it is what you make it.”