OUR CHANGED WORLD: The pandemic inspires innovation and facilitates the transition to university life | Opinion

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Canada’s leading thinkers reflect on how COVID-19 has changed our community, Canada and the world, and changed the future forever.

Entering university is one of the great stages of life. This is a time when young people begin to understand who they are, become more independent, meet new people and build community. The experience is often both exciting and anxiety-provoking. Entering college during a global pandemic adds another level of uncertainty without the comfort of a personal connection to help ease fears and build confidence.

For universities, one of the big hurdles we all face is how to welcome new students and make them feel part of our community. The first year is a time when students begin to learn about their chosen university, its values, and all of the many resources available to them. Before the pandemic, this was all happening on campus and in person.

Fortunately, for each of the many challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose to us, there is also an opportunity to innovate and do better. This is one of the lessons that has carried us over the past two years.

To help smooth the transition for first and second year undergraduate students and enhance their undergraduate experience, Ryerson has established the Freshman Experience Initiative. This project team has developed NavigateRU, a unique website and program designed to help our new students gain confidence as they take the next step in their lives and prepare them to navigate the university experience virtually.

The initiative has worked closely with our Tri-Mentoring Program (TMP), which has helped over 20,000 students transition into college life through peer, group and career mentoring since its inception. almost 20 years ago. The result: a comprehensive program based on well-established learnings and best practices, available on PeopleGrove, the TMP community portal.

NavigateRU offers learning modules and resources to help students understand and navigate the key themes or pathways of student life: identity, well-being, community, learning, systems and structures, and to create the university experience they want for themselves. These learning modules are asynchronous and students can access them online as needed and/or enhance their learning by enrolling in the NavigateRU program.

By providing a way to connect and offer encouragement and support when in-person interaction isn’t possible, NavigateRU is the bridge that takes students from one chapter in their life to this new chapter. It has become an important tool, letting students know that it’s okay to be nervous, to accept their feelings, and to ask for help when they need it.

Mohamed Lachemi is President and Vice-Chancellor of Ryerson University.

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