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Arts & Science advisors brush up on best practices to support student success


The Building a Community of Support conference will be an annual event. © | skynesher.

In a bit of role reversal, it was the Faculty of Arts & Science’s student advisors who received advice during last week’s Student Advisors Conference at Sidney Smith Hall.

The conference, entitled Building a Community of Support, brought together nearly 200 staff and faculty from academic units, college registrars’ offices and student life offices across the University, for a day of professional development, networking and community building.

“The event was inspired by similar advising conferences at other universities,” said Kelly Jay, the Faculty’s associate registrar, student affairs. “The Arts & Science Registrar’s Office wants to help ensure that advising capacity across the Faculty is consistent and supported by our operation, and this event was a first step in that process.”

The day began with a keynote address by Max Valiquette, a nationally known marketing guru, who shared his insights into the traits that help define the current generation of students.

His presentation — a funny, fast paced and entertaining combination of statistics, marketing research, and personal anecdotes — helped to paint a picture of not only who our students are today, but also what issues are important to them and how best to reach them both online and off.

Afterward, attendees chose two topical sessions to attend, broken up by a lunch hour that provided time for sharing ideas and networking.

The sessions included discussions about advising international students, understanding students’ fees and a group approach to managing students in difficulty.

Conference attendees were delighted by the chance to learn from others.

“We don’t really get together as a group, and it is good to see things from different perspectives and hear people who deal with students in a different way,” said Susan Calanza, who works in the Arts & Science registrar’s office.

Siobhan MacLean, an advisor with the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, attended the session to learn what colleagues elsewhere in the university were doing.

“Different faculties have different needs and organizations, but it’s great that there are insights and innovations that can be shared,” MacLean said.

Jay said the conference will be an annual event.

“We plan to survey everyone who attended to see if they have specific ideas on what they’d like to learn about, and to rely on next year’s planning committee to bring ideas from their constituent areas,” Jay said but noted that one goal for next year will be to have “some sessions that address supports for specific groups of students, like international students, or humanities students who may need support when planning for careers.”