Orientation at York University isn’t just for students

On Aug. 27 and 28, some 60 new faculty members who arrived at York University from all parts of the world gathered at the Underground Restaurant on the University’s Keele campus for their own orientation.

Over the two days, the new recruits were enthusiastically welcomed by key members of the University’s leadership and the York University Faculty Association.

On the first day, during the Welcome to York University portion of their orientation, the new faculty heard about the York’s priorities and key initiatives, and how the University supports and encourages development in their careers as teachers and researchers. They also took part in a series of round table discussions facilitated by senior faculty.

morrison1Janet Morrison, vice-provost students, speaks to new faculty

On the second day, as part of the Teaching, Learning and Student Success Day, the new recruits heard from established faculty about technology enhanced learning, experience based learning, the many supports available to help them with their teaching. They learned about the many courses offered through the Teaching Commons at York University and how York University supports quality in teaching. They were given an overview of the many learning supports that York University provides to students through the libraries, the Learning Commons and Counselling & Disabilities Services.

“You are joining York University at a critical time in our history,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri in his comments to kick-off the first day of the new faculty orientation. “Welcome! I encourage you to ask questions and learn more about York University.”

He spoke about the University’s appreciation of its employees and the importance of faculty in preparing the “next generation of Canadian citizens”.

“This is our time at York University,” said Shoukri, telling the new faculty that York, as Canada’s third largest university has a community of 65,000 people who can trace their backgrounds to more than 170 countries worldwide. “You have made a great choice in employers!” he said.

He highlighted York University’s leadership role in business, law, the social sciences, public policy and fine arts education and outlined its established expertise in health and science and growing engineering school. He highlighted York’s strong commitment to community engagement and student success. “You efforts help us to fulfill our promise to students, and we are here to support you and help you develop your careers,” he said.

The new faculty also heard welcoming remarks from York Vice-President Academic Rhonda Lenton; Susan Vail, York’s associate vice-president, teaching and learning; and Alice Pitt, vice-provost, academic.

“The purpose of these two days,” said Vail, “is to give you an understanding of where you fit in this large institution and to help you become orientated with you faculties, schools and departments. You will also hear about the University’s innovations in technology enhanced learning, experiential education, the Teaching Commons and how York University is providing a meaningful first-year experience.”

Pitt welcomed the new faculty and spoke about her role as vice-provost academic and ensuring the University’s commitment to quality in teaching, learning and the student experience.

Lenton then offered the new faculty an overview of the challenges facing Ontario’s post-secondary institutions. She outlined the changing character of universities in the province, and the government’s focus on more accountability, the linking of funding with specific performance measures and the desire that Ontario’s universities be efficient and innovative. The provost explained the University’s Strategic Mandate Agreement and what it means and the strong theme of differentiation between universities, positioning York University as a comprehensive research and teaching university. She also provided an overview of the governance structure.

orientationfpTo launch the second day, faculty heard from York’s Vice-Provost Students Janet Morrison, who offered a profile of the York University student and the University’s diverse and multicultural student population. York University has more commuters than most other Canadian universities, and many of these students, she said, come from diverse backgrounds where they may be the first in their family to attend university.

New faculty discuss their own teaching experiences

Most are balancing their studies with a full time job and family commitments. York University has invested in technology-enhanced learning, which is important said Morrison because it offers students an opportunity to study on the go and make the best use of their time. Students at York University are also highly motivated and career focused, said Morrison, and they are interested in obtaining skills through experience based learning. York University has made significant investments in developing systems and supports to allow for the best in teaching, learning and the student experience.

“Students need to feel like they matter,” said Morrison. “How might York University’s student demographic and institutional identity affect your teaching and learning?”

The new faculty considered that question during the rest of their orientation. They participated in round table discussions led by educational developers working in the Teaching Commons and heard from seasoned faculty, who spoke on the topic: What I wish I had known.