Greater focus on academics sought for Welcome Week


First-year students are able to quickly connect and identify with McMaster, but, according to a report reviewing Welcome Week 1999, the transition into a new academic setting isn't as immediate.

The report found 91 per cent of incoming students felt safe and secure at the school during orientation week. Guided by “friendly and well-trained volunteers,” they were able to enjoy meeting new people and opportunities across the campus, through such events as the McMaster Student Union's Clubs Fest.

But many had difficulty with their increased academic burdens. The report found 61 per cent of students thought Welcome Week was least successful in helping them to connect with their Faculty and 62 per cent felt they were not sufficiently prepared for starting classes.

The report was based upon a survey of first-year students. The findings came from 374 respondents, including 206 students in residence. The results were broken down according to individual Faculty and living arrangements.

In presenting the report to Senate on Feb. 9., Mary Keyes, associate vice-president of student affairs, emphasized the need to improve the introduction students receive from their individual Faculty, as well as examine means to improve their readiness to learn. Currently, two late-summer initiatives — a Welcome Day and a day-long course on preparing for academics in university, run by the Centre for Student Development – are available to a limited number of students. Keyes hopes to expand those and create similar programs for all incoming students.

Traditionally, residence activities play a large role in Welcome Week. Keyes is concerned off-campus students are being ignored. “I worry about a student living in a basement room by his or herself at the beginning of their university life,” she said.

The report revealed a desire by off-campus students to find more opportunities to feel at home on campus, to meet other students, and be involved in campus life without necessarily joining a club or group.

The 33-page report was prepared by the Welcome Week Advisory Council which consisted of students, staff, and faculty members.