York helps students take time off to regroup

All schools should adopt York University’s innovative new Bridging The Gap program, which not only reserves a student’s spot for up to a year, but also keeps in touch while they are away and eases their transition when they get back, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 9 quoting comments by Ryerson student Ashley Lewis.

Schools have been aware for some time that not every student is ready to jump right from high school into college or university. Barbara Brown, of York’s Department of Admissions, Communications & Client Services, says now, more than ever, students carefully plan their futures, and this may mean taking time off to think, improve their grades, travel or, in many cases, make money.

“The university wants to support all of these students,” says Brown. “If they need to take a year off, we want to make it a worry-free one that allows them to concentrate on whatever task is at hand, be it working, travelling or volunteering.”

Madeline Neff, 18, from Elora, has taken advantage of the new program. She will spend this year volunteering with Canada World Youth in Ontario and Peru, then begin York’s graphic design program next September. “It’s fabulous,” she says. “I won’t be distracted thinking about my schooling. I can concentrate totally on Canada World Youth.”

Although other schools will defer admissions on a case-by-case basis, York is the first to formalize the process and assist students along the way. Neff says that makes her feel like part of the University already.

Brown says the program creates a “sense of community” that the students can identify with, starting with a pre-gap summer session for participants. During their year off, they will be encouraged to join York’s student blog and post travelogues and photos, as well as participate in e-chats. There will then be a special “welcome home” reception at the start of classes, so participants can swap stories, share experiences and perhaps even start a campus club.

The program will also help connect gap students with international volunteer programs, and is planning a scholarship contest for them.

Sticker shock for students

Ginella Massa has worked hard to reach her fourth year of university, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 9 in a story about tuition fees. Along the way, she’s tried her best to keep her student debt to a minimum. But even though she’s worked part-time and moved home to save money, it has crept up to a discouraging number.

She recently received a letter from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) with an update of what she owes – $31,867. It was a shock, considering she thought her debt was running at about $20,000. “And that’s before the interest kicks in. I knew I owed a lot, but I didn’t realize just how much that really was. It’s a big reality check,” says Massa, a communications and sociology student who is also taking broadcast journalism in a joint program offered by York University and Seneca College.

South Korea sits on the brink of crisis

South Korea is struggling to avoid becoming the first Asian country to experience a major financial crisis as a result of the global credit crunch, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 9. Combined with a plunge in the stock market, a deteriorating current account balance and a shortage of US dollars, the won’s fall has revived unpleasant memories of the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998. South Korea was hit so hard that some citizens handed over their gold jewellery to save the country from bankruptcy.

“Korea is the one Asian country that is in a real financial panic,” said Mitchell Bernard, a consultant on Asian business and professor emeritus in the Schulich School of Business at York University. “It’s much more open, and so much more vulnerable than other Asian places.”

Schulich prof uses market ‘sim’ games in his class

Moshe Milevsky, professor of finance in the Schulich School of Business at York University, has used simulation software to teach undergraduate and graduate students how the stock market functions, wrote CanWest News Service Oct. 9. “A simulation game is an ideal pedagogical tool to teach people about the stock market. It’s an excellent way for them to learn the architecture and mechanics” of how the market works, he says.

In terms of feedback, “we’ve heard nothing but good things from students.” In fact, Milevsky says, “I wish I’d had that when I was in college 20 years ago. I would have learned a lot more about the markets in that environment than (just) having to read textbooks and check the Wall Street Journal.”

But while simulation games are an excellent educational tool, Milevsky says the strategies players need to employ to win online don’t bear any resemblance to the strategies a prudent investor needs to follow while investing and protecting their money in the real world.

York grad organizes BC documentary festival

Shutter 2 Think is pleased to present “Hot Shorts,” an evening of short documentary films for its second screening of the season, wrote BC’s Terrace Standard Oct. 7. This selection of Canadian short documentaries will be introduced by Lynne Fernie, York film instructor, Genie Award-winning filmmaker and senior programmer of the Canadian Spectrum program for Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, North America’s largest documentary festival.

Fernie, a BC-born interdisciplinary artist, teaches film & video production in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Before she began making films in the 1990s, she was a founding collective member of Fireweed: A Feminist Journal and the Women’s Cultural Building Collective, the editor of Parallélogramme, a national bilingual artist-run magazine, and exhibited in artist-run galleries across Canada.

On air

  • A study about oil spills by Gail Fraser, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, received a response from a spokesperson for the Canada-Newfoundland & Labrador  Offshore Petroleum Board, on CBC Radio’s “Gander Morning” Oct. 8.
  • Gordon Roberts, CIBC Professor of Financial Services in the Schulich School of Business at York Unviersity, spoke about the financial crisis and its effect on Canadians access to credit, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” Oct. 8.