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St. Mike’s Helping First-Years Adjust to University Life

Illustration Credit: David Xiong

New check-in program works to establish relationships between students and professors

Chiara Greco, News Editor

The University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) first-year check-in program has been established this past fall in order to provide an opportunity for first-year students to adjust to university life. The program matches up first-year students with professors to provide guidance in helping them find their footing at university during their first term of school. The program is a result of an idea brought to the Principal’s Office by the University of St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU).  

The program works toward normalizing professor-student meetings. As USMC Principal Randy Boyagoda has stated, “Students were telling us they felt intimidated. Our goal was to humanize the relationship [between students and professors].” As such, the program gives access for first-year students to develop relationships with professors who are familiar with the Faculty of Arts & Science and the university itself.  

Initially, Boyagoda was approached by a group of students who wanted to know what USMC could do to respond to and promote mental health. U of T News reports that “one of the issues that came to light was students’ anxiety over meeting with professors — an experience that is pretty much unavoidable over the course of four years of a post-secondary education.” As such, in response this first-year check-in program was implemented.  

Boyagoda further noted, “This program is not about course advising. It is totally voluntary and student-centred.” The main goal of this check-in program is to establish meaningful connections that most first-year students may be hesitant to make on their own. 

More generally, the University of Toronto (U of T) has also taken notice of this program and is in the process of potentially considering broader applications.  

In conjunction to this student-initiated program, USMC also offers first-year foundation seminars which work toward helping first-year students find their place at U of T more broadly. As according to USMC’s website, “The First-Year Foundations seminars enable new students to engage in academically rigorous discussions and develop strong written, oral, and teamwork skills in the process.” As such, class sizes in these seminars are capped at 30 students, which works to ensure that a close community environment is provided to first-year students. These foundations seminars also work to give first-year students the opportunity to build relationships with professors at the start of their academic careers.  

Further, USMC also offers SMC One seminars to first-year students which work to provide an introduction to university-level studies by providing a bridge from high school to university. The seminars create supportive and dynamic environments which help new students develop academic skills needed for the rest of their studies and academic careers. The SMC One seminars include: the Gilson Seminar in Faith and Ideas, the Boyle Seminar in Scripts and Stories, and the McLuhan Seminar in Creativity and Technology. These seminars are currently accepting applications for the 2020–21 academic year.