In the coming months the first-year experience of students at Wilfrid Laurier University will be undergoing a detailed review by a task force, which will aim to bring a more comprehensive approach to considering the experience the university creates for first-year students.
Struck in mid-December, the task force is co-chaired by David McMurray, vice president of student affairs, and Deborah MacLatchy, vice president: academic and provost. Comprised of 27 members drawn from various factions of the university, the task force held its first meeting before the holidays.
“We’ve talked about doing this for a couple years,” McMurray explained. “There’s always been a concentrated effort on parts of the first-year experience, but never something as comprehensive as this.”
Two goals have been established to guide the task force, one being academic, integration and success, and the other success with regards to personal transition. After looking at the different aspects of the first-year experience in alignment with the goals and principles set out by the task force, recommendations will be brought to WLU’s senate and the board of governors.
“A big part of what we’re going to do as a task force is not only look at what we’re doing, but also look at what best practices are happening at other universities,” said MacLatchy. “A lot of it will be looking as well at some statistics.”
Both MacLatchy and McMurray discussed the role students will have as part of the review, beyond their representation on the task force.
“We’re planning on communicating to the campus community at large and asking for feedback as the work proceeds,” said McMurray. “We want to engage students and all members of the community and the external community to some extent in what we want to try to do.”
Michael Onabolu, president and CEO of the Wilfrid Laurier Universit Students’ Union, also emphasized the importance of involving first-year students in the process as he explained that “their feedback will be instrumental in helping to shape what the strategy looks like.”
All three confirmed that the task force will also be contributing to the discussion surrounding the possibility of fall reading days that were discussed this past fall.
“It’s obviously not the entire thing, but it’s a component of it,” commented Onabolu.
As for their long term hopes for the task force, MacLatchy said she hopes to see retention rates increase, and for students to come to Laurier because of “how we approach the first-year transition and student success.”
“If we accomplish the two goals, to focus on academic success and personal transition, I think that will ultimately say it all,” McMurray concluded.