Symposium celebrates York-Seneca partnership, highlights student mobility and transfer

A symposium to profile and celebrate the York-Seneca partnership took place on April 6 with approximately 120 faculty members, advisors and student services staff from across York University and Seneca College in attendance.

The “Supporting Student Mobility & Transfer Symposium” aimed to foster a culture of transfer among student services personnel across the two institutions and provide an international perspective on student mobility and transfer. The half-day event was organized by a committee comprised of York and Seneca administrative staff.

Vice-President Academic and Provost Rhonda Lenton and Vice-President Academic Seneca College Laurel Schollen opened the symposium and encouraged student success colleagues to learn more about the York/Seneca partnerships in a provincial and international context.

Alice Pitt

Vice-Provost Academic Alice Pitt and Associate Vice-President Academic Partnerships Seneca College Henry Decock provided the audience with an overview of the York/Seneca partnership, which dates back to 1981.

The partnership, they said, continued to flourish in the 1990s and continues to evolve and expand with two new recently signed agreements this academic year. Between 2000 and 2011, more than 9,000 students started at Seneca and transferred to York, and a further 5,000 students started at York and transferred to Seneca.

When asked about the success of the partnership, geography was noted as a boon, but the real success was innovative programming that leverages the strengths of the two institutions to support student learning.

Stephen J. Handel speaks to the audience

Keynote speaker Stephen J. Handel, associate vice-president Undergraduate Admissions, University of California, Berkley (UC System), emphasized that when two-year colleges were set up in the United States, the primary role of the ‘community college’ was to prepare students for transfer to four-year institutions. He further shared his observation that all students need to find a place within education or economies won’t be sustained.

This notion is supported by the decades-long interest of college students in transferring to universities/four-year institutions. As such, transfer remains a shared responsibility of both types of institutions, he said.

Handel also suggested colleges and universities must continue to work together to provide access and opportunity for students by fostering and sustaining a transfer affirming culture.

Leesa Wheelahan (left) listens to Lia Quickert
Yvette Munro

A panel followed with a focus on the Ontario perspective for creating a student–centred approach to transfer within institutions. Joining Pitt and Decock on the panel were Leesa Wheelahan, associate professor, University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), and Lia Quickert, interim executive director, Ontario Council on Articulation & Transfer (ONCAT).

Panelists observed that the human capital argument was too narrow a focus for either side of the ongoing debates about the value of education; however, social inclusion, mobility and equity offered more robust arguments for validating investment in education.

Going forward, panelist suggested that the research agenda should focus on the kinds of pathways students use and take. It should examine how these choices affect the labour market; how the transition can be better supported; and, how best to continue to build collaborative pathways between faculties across our differentiated system of education.

The symposium highlighted that the York-Seneca partnership remains an exemplar for the system; and, while this partnership’s success is enhanced by geographical proximity, it is the ongoing commitment by both institutions that ensures student success.