Team’s effort to improve the quality of student life receives recognition

The Academic Scheduling, Alternate Exams team in the Registrar’s Office received some special acknowledgment of their efforts on Friday, Dec. 4 when they were presented with an Award of Excellence by their colleagues in Counselling & Disability Services (CDS).

The award paid tribute to the team’s dedication to improving the quality of life of York University students with disabilities. Marc Wilchesky, executive director of CDS, presented the award during a general meeting of the Registrar’s Office, which was also attended by members of CDS.

“Because of the Academic Scheduling, Alternate Exams team, rather than being anxious about how to schedule accommodated exams or whether there will be space and assistive technology available for them when writing their tests and exams, students with disabilities can now be stressed about what every other student is stressed about: doing their very best on their exams,” said Wilchesky during the award presentation. “This program is the envy of every postsecondary disability office in Canada.”

Left: Marc Wilchesky

In January 2006, providing testing accommodation for students with disabilities became the joint responsibility of CDS and the Registrar’s Office Academic Scheduling group. While CDS’ strengths lie in supporting and identifying how to address the impact of a student’s disability in their academic life, scheduling, coordinating and logistics are the expertise of the staff within the Registrar’s Office. The resulting partnership best utilized the skills of both teams to successfully serve the disabled student population.  

Led by Kathy-Jo Pinder, assistant registrar, Academic Scheduling, and Sherry Lewkowicz, associate registrar, Academic Scheduling, the Academic Scheduling, Alternate Exams team was created to coordinate the delivery of the more than 7,300 individual tests and exams throughout the academic year. “We are a bridge between students and their professors when it comes to arranging accommodation,” Pinder said. “The team provides incredible individualized service and goes above and beyond for each student making a request.”

Above: From left, Sherry Lewkowicz, Marc Wilchesky, Linda West, Kathy-Jo Pinder, Nadia Rienzo and Manjula Kanwar

In the three years since the team was formed, they have retired the paper-based system for arranging accommodation and launched an online booking system. Testing centres were expanded and standardized to provide a consistent and caring environment for students writing exams and a trained team of invigilators ensured that a qualified individual proctors every exam.

The Academic Scheduling, Alternate Exams team ensures testing is delivered in an environment conducive to a student’s specific disability while ensuring the academic standards of York are met. The responsibility of coordinating with the professor and Faculty, facilities and CDS on behalf of the student is the responsibility of the team. “I’m always amazed at the efforts [of the team],” Wilchesky said. “They have never shied away from problems and sought continuous improvement for the benefit of the students.”

The results are encouraging. During its first year of operation, the streamlined system, which is accessible online 24 hours a day, experienced a 20 per cent growth in use in the 2006-2007 academic year, and it continues to grow.

“It’s a very rewarding job. The team works closely with each student and sees the results in students’ lives. I couldn’t be prouder of the team who has come so far in such a short period time,” said Lewkowicz.

The Award of Excellence is presented annually to an individual or a team of individuals who work consistently and with compassion improve the quality of life of students with disabilities at York. The Academic Scheduling, Alternate Exams team will also be recognized at the CDS New Student Orientation at the start of the 2010 fall/winter term.