Louise Lewin looks back on 12 years heading Glendon’s Student Services

Twelve years ago, when Louise Lewin took on the role of associate principal of Student Services at Glendon, there was no Twitter, no Facebook, not even iPods. Now, as she prepares to step down later this year, things have changed a lot for students – or perhaps not so much.

“When I took on this position, my vision was to ensure that students have a memorable, positive experience during their Glendon stay,” says Lewin. Today, she still subscribes to the same vision, but acknowledges how much more complex all her portfolio’s activities have become.

As of July 1, Lewin is taking on a new position which builds directly on her Glendon expertise. She’ll be the academic director of the Ontario/Rhône-Alpes Student Exchange Program, which is hosted at York and offers exchanges between universities in Ontario and southeastern France. Lewin will remain a member of York’s faculty. Her successor as associate principal will be Rosanna Furgiuele, chair of Glendon’s Department of French Studies (see YFile, April 15).

Lewin, who holds a Specialized Honours BA from York (’74) and an MEd and PhD from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, has been at York since 1970. Now one of the Glendon campus’s best-known figures, she was the first person to fill the position of associate principal in its current format.

Right: Louise Lewin

“It was a very avant-garde transformation at the time, making this a Glendon portfolio comprising every aspect of the student experience, be it academic integrity, student clubs, the student newspaper and radio station and all social and cultural activities,” says Lewin. She took the position in new directions, with notably more international exchanges and international students on campus. With over 160 international students at Glendon today, responsibilities have grown and new accommodations have developed. “We started an international students’ club and hired a student to run it,” says Lewin.

She and her team also developed an extensive orientation program specifically aimed at international students, enhancing services already in place.    

Lewin signed several exchange agreements with other universities. “The services that exchange students need represent a mixture of academic and student life,” says Lewin. And it starts with a careful selection process, interviewing each student to ensure they are academically sound, linguistically competent, informed about course selections and financial implications and prepared for the inevitable culture shock. When Lewin took on the position, there were four agreements in place. Today, Glendon boasts 17 agreements with universities in France, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain and elsewhere in Canada, with more in the works.

Lewin is also devoted to the notion of inter-collaboration among her constituencies, combining forces with academic departments. Recent examples are the Glendon Gallery’s collaboration with Glendon’s Department of Economics in the Expo ’67 project; five projects with Glendon’s Department of Hispanic Studies between 1999 and 2004; annual projects with visual art classes; and the production of Dom Juan with Theatre Glendon and students of drama studies.

Collaborative projects with the Keele campus have also been a priority, including the provision of targeted services for mature students and working with the Student Community & Leadership Development Office. For Lewin, collaboration at all levels is key.

In 1998, she added the newly created position of alumni & communications coordinator to her portfolio. This jump-started Glendon’s alumni activities. On the communications side, her support for the publication RSVP, an annual Glendon alumni magazine, and Imagine, a monthly internal newsletter featuring the activities of staff and faculty, spoke to her recognition that communications is an essential part of community building. She established a Glendon Peer Mentoring Program, pairing upper-year students with first-year students to help them adjust to university life. She was also the originator of Glendon’s Alumni Mentorship Program with the aim of facilitating mentoring relationships between alumni and current students as a catalyst for professional development. Lewin also oversaw the expansion of academic accommodation for students with disabilities.

In fact, Lewin has been a constant Glendon presence, having lived on campus for 10 years, from 1998 to 2008. For all these years, her home has been open to all of Glendon, welcoming international students, residence dons and members of her staff to dinners and warm, informal gatherings. She attends artistic and cultural events regularly; she knows the students and they turn to her with confidence and affection.

“I wasn’t just overseeing student activities, says Lewin. "I have been a regular participant in them.”

Submitted to YFile by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny