Spring recruitment gala changes to meet the needs of applicants

It was all about the York experience.

As more than 4,000 prospective students and their families visited York’s Keele campus on April 4  for the annual recruitment Spring Gala, they were keen to hear all about York – and find out what their professors might be like. This year marked only the second time the event has been held in April – usually it’s in March – so more students arrived at Vari Hall with offers of admission in hand.

That provided the Office of Admissions and York’s Faculties with a conversion gold mine, and the opportunity to connect one-on-one with newly admitted students and their parents. As a sign of the times, the main Admissions information session in the morning focused not on the application process, as in previous years, but rather on highlighting the benefits of the "York Experience". The lively and engaging session featured a young alumni panel, which included CBC meteorologist and York alumnus Nick Czernkovich (BSc Spec. Hons. ’03). Each of the panellists spoke about the many academic and extracurricular activities at York that helped shape their careers.

Above: More than 4,000 visitors attended York’s Spring Gala 

“I think their message to the prospective students was very clear – get involved,” said Ken Withers, director of recruitment & applicant relations. Withers served as the moderator for the panel. “Employers are looking for graduates who have combined excellence in the classroom with demonstrated leadership skills that comes from being involved in university activities outside of the classroom,” he said.

Organizers of this year’s gala also addressed the continuing demand for early engagement with professors and researchers who will teach first-year students. Each of the nine undergraduate Faculty Zones offered a variety of activities designed to help students and their families explore their academic interests. Participants toured labs and got a behind the scenes look at many of York’s specialized facilities. They also had a chance to participate in program-specific Q&A sessions, mini-lectures and career workshops.

Right: Many visitors took the opportunity to see the University up close and explore the classrooms, labs, facilities and residences

For applicants with the long term in mind, the day also offered an opportunity to chat with representatives from York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Alumni Office and york is U, York’s student alumni group.

The Spring Gala offered many other new initiatives for students and their families. These included a very popular Plan your day agenda-builder that was searchable, sortable and printable by session type and Faculty.

The First-Year Experience Zone, hosted by York’s Student Community & Leadership Development, focused on orientation, York’s RED Zone, student clubs, Health Education & Promotion and leadership. Situated in the Bear Pit in Central Square, the First-Year Experience Zone had a welcoming lounge atmosphere with interactive activities and games as well as extra special treats including a chair massage, popcorn and cotton candy.

Students and their families had a chance to take part in celebrations of York’s 50th birthday, with free cake that was served at 2pm in the Vari Hall Rotunda. Parents also received special treatment including a specialized Parent Package that contained information about supporting student transition, a calendar of events, a YorkU magazine and a free Las Nubes coffee coupon. 

Approximately 150 student ambassadors signed up to don the familiar red jackets and answer visitor questions, guide tours and share their perspective on life at York. 

Many other initiatives were part of this year’s Spring Gala:

  • Each of York’s colleges had representation in the Faculty Zone. 
  • Liberal Arts & Professional Studies premiered the new Faculty in grand fashion, making students the star of the show. Visitors had their photographs taken as they walked the red carpet leading to the Faculty’s information booth.
  • Both the Keele and Glendon campuses provided offers of admission and enrolment appointment bookings on site.
  • The York English Language Test invited high-achieving applicants (from key feeder schools) requiring language testing to write the test on site and then join in the Spring Gala festivities.
  • A Happy Birthday York University banner was available to be signed by new students.
  • A new series of experiential residence tours at both Keele and Glendon showcased residence rooms and gave visitors the chance to participate in residence life activities.
Above: Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Zone rolled out the red carpet as future students made their way to the “premiere” of the new Faculty

Given York’s 50th anniversary, this year’s gala also included a York U50 Room featured a York University photo gallery, U50 banners and free coffee; an Alumni Parents Reception, courtesy of the Alumni Families Program; the cake-cutting ceremony; and the synchronized choreography of York’s Hip Hop Dance Club, a.k.a. StyleWize.

Left: No birthday is complete without cake

The new initiatives added freshness to the event while retaining the best practices that position York at the forefront of recruitment and conversion events.

All 10 Faculties and York’s service areas were showcased, illustrating the interdisciplinary programs, comprehensive student services and vibrant campus life of the University. Among the highlights:

  • The Faculty of Environmental Studies offered a taste of the University experience through a mini-lecture from Professor Anders Sandberg, a semi-finalist from TVO’s 2008 Best Lecturer Contest.
  • Fine Arts promoted artistic talent with in-studio, live performance presentations and exhibitions.
  • Glendon offered a preview of its Spring Gala event, held April 5.
  • The Faculty of Health provided tours, panels and Q&A sessions with current students and professors.
  • Liberal Arts & Professional Studies provided a wealth of information, from what future students can expect in the first-year to opportunities in their fields after graduation.
  • The Faculty of Science & Engineering amazed applicants with a chemistry magic show that demonstrated an exciting side to science with pyrotechnics and explosions.
  • Schulich welcomed business hopefuls with an overview of the program, an information fair and mini-lectures.

The Circle of Scholars Breakfast, offered to an exclusive group of top applicants from across Canada, sold out this year.  The breakfast, held at The Underground in the morning before the gala officially got underway, gave applicants, new admits and their guests an opportunity to meet some of York’s current top students, professors and alumni as well as President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri and VP Students Rob Tiffin.

Right: Each Faculty Zone offered students and their families the opportunity to ask questions and explore their program of interest

The Atkinson Centre for Mature & Part-time Students offered dedicated assistance to mature and university/college transfer students in the Mature & Transfer Zone, located in Vari Hall. Applicants submitted their documents, were assessed and, if eligible, received offers of admission on the spot.

The Student Services Information Fair set up shop in the link between Vari Hall and the Ross Building. There guests found informative displays highlighting campus resources. For the many applicants who came to the event with an offer of admission in hand (and close to 40 accepted their offer on the spot), the insightful activities and warm welcome from students, staff and professors helped to confirm York as the right choice.

The Keele campus Spring Gala was held Saturday, April 4, from 10am to 2pm, and the Glendon Spring Gala happened the next day, Sunday, April 5, from 10:30am to 3:15pm.