RED Zone stats reveal a new record in attendance

The numbers are in and York’s RED Zone was a hit. The one-stop shop for new students coming to York did a booming business over the summer months.

"Midsummer, we thought we were going to reach about 6,000 visitors to the Zone and our numbers are in and we’ve exceed those expectations," said Brian Poser, manager, student success & retention. "The final tally shows that 7,888 visitors used the RED Zone since it opened in May, and I am astounded."

And if the visitor stats weren’t enough, the good news continues. "More than 4,500 students got their YU-cards [University identification cards] at the RED Zone," said Poser. "And 75 per cent of those who visited came on the same day as their faculty advising appointment."

Left: The comfortable RED zone offers student- and parent-specific resources designed to help students adapt to life at the University

Launched in 2006, York’s RED Zone has just completed its second year of operation. Designed to make the transition to university life smooth for new students to York, the RED Zone services were offered to Canadian high-school, international, college & university transfer and mature students. Parents were welcome to visit too. The Zone provided a one-stop shop and was staffed by senior students (well-versed in all things York) who introduced services, programs and resources geared to helping new students make the transition to York smooth and successful.

Some of the tasks students could complete in the Zone include:

  • getting a YU-card;
  • learning how to access Passport York;
  • finding answers to important money questions, including bursaries, RESPs & OSAP;
  • learning about student clubs and organizations;
  • discovering details about Student Orientation and the York Day Information Fair; and
  • signing up for college-hosted events for incoming students.

"The REDZone ambassadors were a huge hit with the students. The friendliness and approachability of the student staff was among our highest satisfaction ratings at 92 per cent," said Poser. "Visitors felt welcomed by a well-trained and informed group of friendly ‘insiders’ who were willing and able to share their advice.

Right: The RED Zone ambassadors

"The most visitors (47 per cent) stayed for 30-60 minutes, supporting the feedback we’ve received that they were engaging with our staff in the environment," said Poser. "Thirty-four per cent stayed up to 30 minutes and 15 per cent stayed for over an hour. Some students even made return trips to gather more information."

The Faculty advising centres were big partners in the Zone, referring the most students to it, said Poser. Student Community & Leadership Development, Faculty advising centres, Admissions & Recruitment, the colleges and Student Services worked together to help students make a smooth and successful transition to university life and studies. Other partners included YU-Card, Recruitment & Marketing, the Bookstore, Security Services and Parking & Transportation Services.

"The volume was more than we thought. Last year’s inaugural RED Zone did a terrific job and laid the groundwork for this year’s success," said Poser. New to the Zone this year was having the YU-card right in the RED Zone.

"We had YU-card sign up and photo station right in the Zone. Students who came to get their YU- card discovered the Zone," said Poser. "It was a huge undertaking and they added a second photo session to keep up with the volume."

The top six major topics of interest to new students were the YU-card, transportation, financial services, Orientation, York’s Web site and clubs and organizations. The RED Zone’s Fast Facts –one-page handouts with need-to-know information  – covered all these except the YU-card and York’s Web site, which were experiential components of students visits. Web site visits included parking, Orientation, transportation, financial services, residence, sport & recreation, housing and e-mail and Passport York activations, said Poser.

Only about one-third of students attended with a parent and Poser said the Zone that 92 percent of students surveyed indicated they were planning to attend academic and social orientation events.

Comments from survey respondents revealed a positive experience for many new students and their parents:

"The York RED Zone allowed me to feel more confident when beginning my first year at York. I really appreciated the help that was given."

"It was a great experience talking with York students and learning a lot of useful information dealing with courses, student life, clubs/sports, transportation etc."

"RED Zone was very welcoming and in slang terms ‘chillin’. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the easy access to every answer for every question I had. It was a nice relaxing time."

"My wife and I feel that the RED Zone is a definite asset to the Orientation, for parents and students too. I don’t know if the students working today were the exception but it seemed to us that they really wanted to make parents feel not only welcome, but at ease with our child’s decision to accept the invitation to study at York University."

"York’s RED Zone is a great idea. Even my father who was a York student says he wishes they had it way back when. It’s a great place to do the one-stop shop on all the info about York. Awesome!"

"Receiving the YU-card was easy and convenient. Food is always good. Thank you for the pizza!"

This year’s RED Zone served up 5,000 slices of pizza and cans of pop. The total weight of cookies handed out exceeded 50 kilograms.

"We went from a nice cosy space in the Bennett Centre to a much larger space in 034 Founders College. It was a much larger room and we designed it to be a counterbalance to the rest of the student’s day," said Poser. The Zone featured a coffee shop atmosphere with couches, comfortable chairs, workstations and computers with access to the Internet.

The student ambassadors were the stars of RED Zone, said Poser. Many of the students were also involved in other University projects including the New Faculty Teaching at York fishbowl; Experience York blog; and serving on the New Student Transition Council.

"The ambassadors offered the real deal on York and provided their insider tips to help new students navigate their transition to university life," said Poser. "The visitors could even play  trivia games that tested their knowledge of York, they won prizes and this provided them with a chance to learn more about the University."

Next year, Poser is hoping to increase the size of the experience. "Size is not necessarily measured by numbers of students, but more by the quality of what they experience. Close to 75 per cent of the incoming class for this year visited the Zone."

"With our partners on campus, I would like to see a greater presence of the colleges in the Zone and a greater emphasis on Orientation," said Poser. "We are hoping to make it more interactive with more information on the social and academic opportunities on campus. I would also like to see us come to terms with the question of extended hours for mature students, perhaps keeping the Zone open late, at least one evening a week, so that students coming to late advising appointments have an opportunity to fully experience the Zone.

"Everything in the RED Zone is about transitioning students to university and helping them make lasting and meaninful relationships on campus," said Poser.

For more on the RED Zone, see the May 7, 2007 issue of YFile.