By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele
Amidst the rush of new students coming to McMaster University, there are countless numbers of staff, faculty, and upper-year students ready to make that transition to University a little bit easier. Whether it’s helping a student with move-in and navigating campus for the first time or offering advice on balancing academic, personal, and professional needs, when students come to McMaster University, they join a community invested in their well-being and growth.
Year after year, Welcome Week offers the McMaster community an opportunity to connect with students. For staff, in particular, Welcome Week is a chance to get to know the incoming class before their academic schedules get busy, even if it’s a simple conversation that says, “We’re here for you.”
“Welcoming students in an inclusive way is part of McMaster’s culture,” says Gina Robinson, Director of the Student Success Centre. “It is important for students to know that we all care and are here for them at a time when for most students it is their first time away from home.”
Taking advantage of this unique opportunity to connect with students, the Student Success Centre incorporated new elements into their well-known Welcome Week event, MacQuest. Previously known as a day that takes students across campus and into the City of Hamilton through various tours and experiences based on interests alone, this year, MacQuest took this challenge to the next level by focusing its tours on a shared purpose: multiple tours, programming, and events that introduced students to a variety of services on-campus.
“MacQuest is designed to expose students to support systems and services that promote academic success and support students’ physical, mental, and financial well-being,” says Michele Corbeil, Program Coordinator of Orientation and Transition at the Student Success Centre. “It’s all about helping students understand the connection between classroom and out-of-classroom learning.”
“Navigating university services and knowing where to connect is essential to student success,” Gina adds. “MacQuest makes it fun.”
What makes MacQuest different than other orientation events across universities is its customization and logistics. Students who participated had the opportunity to pick two experiences based on their interests. Organized with campus services, MacQuest choices ranged from scavenger hunts and food tours to participation in sample classes at The Pulse and a Marauder’s Den challenge at Thode MakerSpace, which introduced students to ideas around entrepreneurship and careers using the model of the popular show, Dragon’s Den. The MacAdemics 101 sessions, alone, hosted almost 350 students that day, making it one of MacQuest’s most in-demand events, an expected turnout considering academics is the primary stressor for students. MacAdemics 101 served over 2,000 students over the course of the week.
As Michele shared, “Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. In our feedback forms, one student participating in the Hidden Gems tour commented that they learned about ‘all the different services available to students in every category.’”
With over 40 different tours available (with many offered several times throughout the day), it is no surprise that this event was nominated for a 2017 Canadian Event Industry award for the “Outstanding Logistical Achievement” category, which evaluates an event for its difficulty as well as its complexity, creativity, problem-solving, and strategy. The Student Success Centre was proud to represent McMaster University as one of the only post-secondary institutions to get recognized.
Motivated by the success of MacQuest, a new event will be hosted this October, the Student Services Fair, which will continue to support students in their ongoing transition to University life. Taking place on Thursday, October 19, 2017, departments from across Student Affairs and other important student services on-campus will host a carnival-themed event, where undergraduate students will have the opportunity to learn about services on-campus over games, snacks, and giveaways.
Similar to MacQuest’s student services themes, The Student Services Fair will be an opportunity for students to connect or reconnect with the McMaster community in a more interactive way. In addition to the games and festivities, staff will be available to answer questions and offer insight regarding student concerns and interests.