New support systems await influx of fall students

It’s hard for many to get excited about summer slowly waning into fall, but for Patti McDougall that change is something to get excited about.

By HenryTye Glazebrook

To McDougall, the sun’s earlier creep toward dusk, trees starting to lose their leaves and the cooler shift in the wind all add up to one welcome prospect: back to school.

“At the start of the fall term I am revitalized by the return of our continuing students and the influx of new students,” said McDougall, the vice-provost teaching and learning at the University of Saskatchewan. “As thousands of students return to the university, it feels like a life force of energy directing our focus. I look forward to that positive energy and the enthusiasm about what the coming year will hold.”

Fall is a fascinating time on any campus, and the U of S is no exception. With more than 21,000 new and returning students soon to flood into classrooms, the university is taking care to establish a series of support systems to ensure their transition back into academics is smooth, educational and fun.

“Over three thousand of these students are new first-year students in our direct-entry colleges,” McDougall said. “What’s particularly exciting is that our student numbers are up almost a thousand students as compared to this same time last year.”

For three days in August, leading up to the residence move-in, the International Student and Study Abroad Centre’s (ISSAC) student staff and volunteers will set up at the Diefenbaker International Airport, personally greeting new international students until the last flight arrives each night.

Returning for its second year, the annual Aboriginal Student Weekend Welcome will take place Aug. 11–12. An estimated 60 students and guardians are currently registered for the program, which provides an opportunity to get familiar with campus, meet fellow students and staff and learn more about what U of S has to offer.

Health and wellness initiatives will also feature some changes, with Student Affairs and Outreach being established as a new entity responsible for mental health intake and outreach, early alerts and crisis response.

The new unit will work alongside the Student Wellness Centre, as part of an integrated Student Affairs and Services team, and will introduce a new centralized health intake and shared-care model, as well as new support options such as individualized care planning and mental health support groups.

September will also include a series of other activities, including smart start academic orientation, an environmental programs open house and more.

But for McDougall, what’s most important is that students dive into the new academic year with vigour.

“My challenge to new students is to take part in orientation activities and attend the campus expo to find out more about services and clubs,” she said. “Find something you’re passionate about and get involved.”