New faculty get to know York University

Faculty hear from York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton

While the cheers and chants of Orientation Week dominated the University’s campuses in late August, a different type of orientation was taking place Aug. 28 and 29 in the Convention Centre located in the Second Student Centre on the Keele Campus. Gathered in the brand-new facility were 66 new faculty from around the world who were there for their own orientation to the University.

Faculty hear from York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton

Planned and co-hosted by the Office of the Vice-Provost Academic, the Office of the Associate Vice-President (AVP) Teaching and Learning, and the Teaching Commons, the two-event offered an intensive primer for new faculty on everything about York University, from decoding of the dizzying array of institutional acronyms (YCAR, SMA, UEC, VPS and CERLAC, to name just a few) through to research supports and networks, who is who, how to navigate tenure, teaching and learning, and the classroom experience.

Will Gage offers an overview of the orientation kit for new faculty

The New Faculty Orientation is an annual event and features welcoming remarks from senior administrators, facilitated roundtable discussions on a myriad of topics (open access, open data and research metrics), faculty panels offering advice on how to achieve a work-life balance in a large, busy urban university and a resource fair.

The event began with the President’s Breakfast and featured introductory remarks from York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton. The president provided an overview of the four pillars that underpin her vision for the University: access, connectedness, excellence and impact. To highlight how these pillars are connected, Lenton offered examples of University’s work with refugees in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, which teaches students living there how to teach others, and she spoke with pride about the University’s new program for students with precarious immigration status, which offers an opportunity to earn credits at the University. She then reflected on the University’s growing reputation for access and excellence and closed her remarks with a request that the new faculty read the University’s White Paper and University Academic Plan for 2015-20.

New faculty review the contents of their orientation packages

Greetings were then delivered by the event co-hosts Vice-Provost Academic Alice Pitt, and Will Gage, AVP teaching and learning. The new faculty then heard presentations from the senior academic leadership. All of their comments were centred around a core theme that situated York University as a city. The presentations offered a variety of perspectives on the York “city” as it relates to teaching, student experience, research, internationalization, governance and graduate studies.

Lisa Philipps, vice-president academic and provost, spoke to new faculty about York University’s ongoing work in planning, including its Strategic Mandate Agreement with the Province of Ontario, the University’s Indigenous framework, government relations, the new Markham Centre Campus and more.

Following a break, faculty participated in a series of facilitated roundtables where they met and networked with new faculty and were guided through areas such as tenure and promotion, working with graduate students, research and other topics that affect their work at the University.

In the afternoon, a faculty panel on balancing research, teaching and service at the University provided a relaxed exchange with senior faculty. Those in attendance learned about the importance of making time for mental breaks; learning meditation; linking service with research and teaching so they support each other; keeping strict but generous office hours; taking advantage of York’s encouragement of interdisciplinary work and opportunities; and finding a good role model and mentor.

Celia Popovic, director of the Teaching Commons, speaks about the kinds of courses and training it provides free of charge to faculty

Day two was focused on teaching, learning and student success. The day began with a presentation about student demographics, which offered a profile of the unique needs and challenges faced by students who attend York University. The presentation was delivered by the Vice-Provost Students Lucy Fromowitz.

Host Celia Popovic, director of the Teaching Commons led participants through a series of discussions that covered how the new faculty could facilitate student success and the importance of identifying their own teaching and learning support needs. They listened to established faculty talk about the kinds of things they wished they had done, or the questions or supports they found helpful, including the many professional development teaching courses and new teaching certificate offered by the Teaching Commons.

The event finished with a resource fair and an information exchange that provided the new faculty with a wealth of information on where to go, who to talk to and what to ask for as they embark on their new careers at York University.