#CACUSS16 – Lights, Camera, Action!

The Supporting Student Success research team is excited to share findings from the study at the upcoming #CACUSS16 conference in Winnipeg, June 19-22.

Findings from the research study inspired us to develop a set of principles for fostering a student-focused approach. If you have been discussing practical ways to be more student-centered in your everyday work, this is a session you will not want to miss!

Join Jacqueline Beaulieu and Tricia Seifert for an exploration of the study’s findings and an opportunity to apply proposed principles to fictional case studies inspired by the real-life experiences of participants. Wednesday, June 22 from 11:45-1:15 in Meeting Room 9.

Not attending CACUSS? Check back Wednesday, June 29 when we post the slides and invite audience members to reflect on key take-away points from the presentation.


Almost daily someone in the media questions the value of higher education. Having reviewed thousands of studies examining the impact of attending college or university on learning, development, and graduates’ quality of life, authors of the forthcoming book, How College Affects Students (volume 3) #HCASv3 conclude definitively that higher education works for students and society.

Tricia Seifert, one of the book authors, will present and discuss key findings Wednesday, June 22 from 10:45-11:30 in Meeting Room 3.

Book Jacket

Are you on the bus? Examining perspectives of supporting student success


In the book, Good to Great, Jim Collins uses the metaphor of the bus for discussing the importance of having committed people in order for a company to move from being “good” to “great.”

Recognizing that the people who work with students can be some of the most important assets of any college or university, it may be worth inquiring who’s on your institution’s bus? Are new staff members more optimistic than their colleagues in terms of how they perceive their area’s efforts to support student success? Does it matter in what functional area of student affairs and services a person works? How does your college or university go from being good to great?

The Supporting Student Success research team is excited to be part of the “Research in Student Affairs” webinar series being sponsored by CACUSS. Using data from staff members representing 24 institutions across Canada, we will examine these questions and discuss their implications for student affairs and services practice.

The webinar titled “An Investigation of Student Affairs Professionals’ Perceptions of their Department’s Undergraduate Student Retention Effort “will take place Monday, March 21 at 1:00 pm (EST). You can register for the webinar here. We hope you join us.

The Force Awakens Between Faculty, Staff & Student Affairs Professionals: Reflections on Fostering Meaningful Connections

By: Kristina Minnella (Coordinator, Co-Curricular Learning; @kriminnella) and Emzhei Chen (Manager, Student Life & Leadership Programs, @emzheichen)

Nearly 85,000 students across three campuses; more than 13,000 faculty and almost 6500 staff – that’s a whole lot of people to bring together. The Student Life Professionals Network at the University of Toronto enriches the lives of students and aims to make a very big university feel a little smaller.


In a new initiative called SLP Reads, student affairs educators explore and discuss ideas in higher education literature. The piece selected for the first SLP Reads was “The More We Work Together The Happier We’ll Be!(?): Faculty and Staff Partnerships on Campus” – a blog post from the Supporting Student Success research study headed by Dr. Tricia Seifert (@CdnStdntSuccess; @TriciaSeifert).

Colleagues from 16 different offices were present. Areas that were present included: Housing and Residence Life, Student Transition, Health & Counselling, Academic Advising, Career Services, International Experience, Community-Engaged Learning and Academic Even with our diverse communities and varied academic ecosystems across the three campuses, it was fascinating to see many of our ideas coalesce under a number of themes.

Validation. Many of our colleagues indicated that they were not surprised at the findings. The reading contains statistics that cite that just over 60% of faculty have never partnered with Community Outreach, Specific Populations (International Students, First Nations students or First Generation.) Many seemed to appreciate that there were now statistics and data to acknowledge what they knew anecdotally, that it is hard to connect with faculty.

Relationship Building. So yes, our feelings were validated. We spent much of our discussion focussing on the question “Now what?” Unanimously, discussions from our tri-campus discussions show that student affairs professionals are keen on forming connections and relationships.

Findings in the reading show that there are areas (Personal Well-Being, Alumni) where faculty are more likely to have been in a prior partnership versus an ongoing one, which made us ponder the patterns that must exist in order to maintain a relationship. We talked about the importance of taking the time to seek out faculty members that have research and interests that align with your area of work before establishing communication.

A great suggestion that came up was rethinking how we ask to collaborate with faculty. Instead of simply inviting faculty to collaborate, someone suggested the importance of recognizing the experience of Faculty and seeking feedback for improvement of programming and initiatives, then actually using those suggestions for program improvement. Another suggestion was to clearly define the purpose, programs and types of roles where faculty can get involved and taking the time to examine our own programming to highlight potential areas of engagement that could lead to meaningful ongoing relationships

Communication. Thinking about the way we communicate with faculty was something that was highlighted for us. The reading speaks to having a high rate of faculty (67%) who had not participated in a partnership with the area of Personal Well-Being (Counselling & Health Services), even in light of campuses championing a holistic view of students. It is noteworthy, but not entirely surprising as faculty may not understand what we actually do for students, hence the lack of collaboration even though the work accomplished is of the utmost importance. Therefore, communication is key in establishing fruitful working relationships.

Another thought is that student affairs may be viewed as one unified entity from the faculty point of view, even though we might be distinct units with not a lot of contact. As units, it may be beneficial to tighten up the language that we use as professionals. Terminology that is common across departments would lend some consistency and cohesiveness to the work that we are doing.

Perhaps as practitioners we should be grounding our work in theory, and reflecting it in the way we talk about our activities and programs. We know that our work is not all about board games and baked goods! Through this focus, the language being utilized better reveals the relevance of what work is being done.

One of the most revealing lessons from our discussions is that we all have students as our common denominator. They can be great communication vehicles to share programming with faculty, especially on initiatives in which they are actively engaged in. Student events and organizations that you work with may already have existing relationships with faculty. Your work with student leaders could be what fosters these connections.

At the end of the day, we are all partners for student success on campus. Therefore, greater discussion is encouraged- within Student Affairs professionals, connecting with faculty has been on our radar for quite some time! It was a great opportunity for us to use this reading as a starting point for a great discussion across all three campuses.


A New Academic Year… A New Blueprints for Student Success!

A new academic year brings new challenges in communicating the programs and initiatives that Student Affairs/Services organize on campus! With a new batch of students excited to learn, we need to jump on this opportunity!

New Features

Keeping this in mind, the Supporting Student Success research team has updated the Blueprints for Student Success website (www.blueprintsforstudentsuccess.com) to feature a host of new involvement opportunities and student experience videos. Check out the site and click on the ‘Getting Involved’ and ‘Experience Videos’ pages.

Highlighted initiatives include:

  • Algonquin College’s AC Hub
  • Conestoga College’s Connect!
  • Memorial University’s Make Midterm Matter
  • Ryerson University’s #RoadtoRyerson and Emotion-Focused Therapy Group
  • University of British Columbia Okanagan’s Peer Mentors
  • University of Guelph-Humber’s Kick Start
  • University of Toronto Scarborough’s Get Started
  • York University’s YU Start

In addition, in the lower left-hand corner of the home page we are featuring a cheat sheet to postsecondary lingo for students. Thompson Rivers University has created an exceptional glossary that answers all those burning questions your students have but may not wish to ask… What is an Academic Advisor? What is a Dean in charge of? What is the difference between a bursary and scholarship? How many weeks are in a semester?

A Guide to this Resource

If you are visiting this resource for the first time, the purpose of the Blueprints for Student Success website is to introduce students to the area on campus called Student Affairs, Student Services, Student Life, or Campus Life. Whatever it’s called, this group of people, programs and services assist students in registering for classes, starting a club, working on a difficult class assignment, talking about a stressful situation or consulting a doctor, and much more. Many angles are needed to create any blueprint and this is particularly true in drafting a blueprint for success in college and university.

We believe that students’ blueprints include their interactions and relationships with college and university staff, advisors, counsellors, faculty and peers; and the people they get to know through study groups, learning skills workshops/programs, co-ops and internships, leadership opportunities, peer helper programs, employment on campus, living in residence, student government, clubs and sports. Accordingly, our website is comprised of five component parts that when utilized together aid students in creating their very own blueprint:

  • Introduction to Student Services
  • Interactive Student Service Guide
  • Involvement Opportunities Posting Board – cool opportunities to engage on campus
  • Frequently Asked Questions Slideshows – advice and answers from current college and university students
  • Experience Videos – learn from those involved in these awesome programs

As always, we encourage you and your students to check it out! Sharing this resource widely will ensure current students and those preparing for college and university learn about the service areas designed to support their success. In addition, please download our advertisement card and brochure for dissemination and advising purposes.

For more information about the Blueprints for Student Success website, please contact:

Tricia Seifert
Primary Investigator, Supporting Student Success Research Project
Leadership, Higher and Adult Education
Ontario Institute of Studies for Education
University of Toronto
Email: tricia.seifert@utoronto.ca
Research Blog: www://supportingstudentsuccess.wordpress.com
Twitter: @CdnStdntSuccess
Facebook: Supporting Student Success

Christine Helen Arnold
Youth Outreach Coordinator, Supporting Student Success Research Project
Leadership, Higher and Adult Education
Ontario Institute of Studies for Education
University of Toronto
Email: c.arnold@utoronto.ca

Submit your Canadian Student Affairs Sponsored Program Session for #ACPA16

The 2016 ACPA Convention in Montreal is the first time it is being held outside of the United States. One of the main features of the program are the submission and selection of sponsored programs. Submit-a-Program-Proposal-Button-01-300x143These are programs which are chosen by the Commissions and Coalitions of ACPA. It is a way to ensure that the Convention program that reflects the ACPA community. With 2016 Conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the Convention team has allocated 5 sponsored sessions to the specifically to focus on Canadian content. But we hope that there are many, many more in the program.

For sponsored programs, we are seeking sessions that highlight the innovative programs, practices and features that make our work in Canada unique. We know great work is happening on our campuses across the country. We see it online, and every year at CACUSS. So don’t hesitate! Submit a program proposal for sponsorship!

Why Submit a Sponsored Program? A sponsored program gets extra  visibility among existing members of the Commission. Sponsored programs also get greater promotion to all conference attendees through dedicated and additional spaces in the conference program and web promotion. This visibility will expose your program to more people hopefully bringing even more attendance.

Submit a Sponsored Program. To have your program considered for sponsorship, start here when completing your program proposal

  • Under type of program select the ‘Sponsored Program/Co-Sponsored’ option
  • Then select ‘Yes’ in the next Sponsored Program
  • Then select” Commission for Global Dimensions of Student Development” in the list of Commissions and Coalitions.
  • Lastly, after you have completed most of the program form, be sure to check Canadian Higher Education as one of your Keywords/Topics. This ensures your proposal goes into the sponsored route and is reviewed by those Canadian Student Affairs professionals

If your proposal covers multiple areas (e.g. Housing & Residential Life, Graduate Students and New Professionals) you can indicate co-sponsorship (by selecting Global Dimensions and the other relevant group). The co-sponsored option means we can sponsor more great work as it only counts as 0.5 of our 5 allotted spots.

Remember, proposals not selected to be sponsored programs will be reviewed for the general program! Submitting a sponsored program proposal effectively doubles the possibility for your program to be selected for ACPA 2016 in Montreal. Can’t beat those odds!! Don’t wait, begin preparing your proposal today.

Guide/Tips on Submitting a Proposal. You can find more information about the program submission process here and see a brief webinar about how to propose a session for ACPA 2016.  All program submissions for the 2016 Convention are due on Friday September 4, 2015.

With convention being in Montreal, and a growing number of Canadian student affairs professionals attending convention, we really want to highlight the amazing work that is happening on our campuses. We see it each year at Canadian conferences, on social media, in our publications. Now we have a chance to showcase our great work !

If you have any questions about the process, or want to chat about an idea you have for a proposal, please feel free to contact Jeff Burrow (burrow.jeff@gmail.com) at any time. 


The More We Work Together The Happier We’ll Be!(?): Faculty and Staff Partnerships on Campus

This is the fourth post in which we have shared data from Phase 3 of the Supporting Student Success research study. Faculty and student affairs staff from colleges and universities across Canada were asked reflect on how they support student success. We invite you to take a look at previous blog posts from this series. We started first with how faculty and staff learn, then we talked about how aware both groups were of programs and services at their institution and last week we looked at to which programs and services faculty and staff referred students.

This week we look at partnerships and collaborations. Throughout the student success literature, we see numerous references to the importance of faculty and student affairs staff working together. Partnerships and collaborations matter as student success isn’t the sole purview of just one person, or one department on campus; instead it is best considered as a shared responsibility across the institution.

We asked faculty and staff to look at a list of 10 different areas of programs and services and indicate if in the last year they had:

a) never partnered with someone from that area (scored as 0);

b) had partnered but not currently (scored as 1);

c) have an ongoing partnership with that area (scored as 2).

Someone who said they had an ongoing partnership with all 10 areas would score 20, while someone who had never partnered with any of these areas would score 0.

Partnerships #1

The first chart highlights that staff are involved in more ongoing partnerships than faculty in these five areas. Academic services (which includes Academic Advising and Learning Support) and Administrative Services (which includes Registrar’s Office and Financial Aid) were the two areas faculty and staff indicated having the most active partnerships.

Although faculty and staff have ongoing partnerships with similar areas (Administrative Services and Academic Services), twice as many staff indicated an ongoing partnerships with these areas in comparison to faculty.

Interestingly, 67% of faculty indicated they had not partnered with the area of Personal Well-Being (which includes Counselling & Health Services). Given ongoing discussions of the importance of a whole campus approach to student well-being (check out the Health Minds | Healthy Campuses website and recent international conference held at UBC, Okanagan), this finding is striking.

Moreover, we might expect faculty and staff to have more active partnerships with Experiential Education (Career Services, Internships, Service-Learning) considering the continual conversation about helping students become career-ready. Again, this is an area ripe for partnerships between faculty and student affairs staff members. Combining strengths and expertise of disciplinary knowledge, leadership, and interpersonal communication would prepare students for their career and engage meaningfully in their communities.

Also, in some areas more respondents indicated having a previous partnership in comparison to those who indicated an ongoing partnership. For example, while 21% of Faculty indicated having a previous partnership with the area Personal Well-Being, only 11% indicated an ongoing partnership. A similar pattern exists with the area of Alumni, where 20% of faculty indicated a previous partnership in comparison to 8% who had a current partnership. Findings were similar with staff where 29% reported a previous partnership and 22% indicated an ongoing partnership. One most consider what factors influence these partnership patterns and what prompts partnerships to develop. Furthermore, how can partnerships be maintained in an ongoing manner?


In the chart above, we see faculty and staff partnering almost equally in academic programs and with specific faculty. Some of the most noticeable differences between faculty and staff in terms of ongoing partnerships are within the areas of Specific Populations (Faculty=14%, Staff=46%) and Student Life (Faculty=11%, Staff=45%).

Similar to the first chart, we notice here areas in which respondents indicated a previous partnership in comparison to those who have an ongoing partnership. For example, 21% of faculty indicated a previous partnership with areas for Specific Populations (International students, First Nations students, or First Gen students) while 14% indicated an ongoing partnership. While the trend of having more respondents indicate a previous partnership compared to an ongoing partnership occurs in three out of five areas for faculty, it occurs once for staff; and in this case (Community Outreach), it was a slight difference (Previous partnership=28%, Ongoing partnership=27%).

Just over 60% of faculty indicated they had never partnered with three areas: Community Outreach, Specific Populations, and Student Life. While the opportunity to partner with these areas may never have arisen, what influences the development of these partnerships and what may be preventing them from occurring?

Questions to Consider

1. How much of the differences in partnership activity could be related to the nature of the role of staff versus the role of faculty? How much do we expect staff and faculty to partner and who decides this? Maybe a bigger question is: are partnerships encouraged (by students? by senior leaders?) and valued on campus?

2. Given faculty members’ inherent focus on academics, the differences in partnership activity with Academic Services is noteworthy. 55% of faculty and 75% of staff indicated a previous or ongoing partnership with Academic Services. This suggests a larger percentage of student affairs staff actively involved in supporting the academic missions of their institutions than may have been recognized previously.

3. On your campus, who are the faculty you partner with? Are they tenured/permanent stream or sessional/adjunct? How much might this impact their willingness and ability to partner?

With the academic year around the corner, we hope the summer blog series has provided food for thought on how faculty and student affairs staff members may seek opportunities to learn more about how each group uniquely contributes and supports student success. As we move into new faculty and staff orientations, what from this research resonates with your experiences on campus? How might these findings spark a conversation in which campus stakeholders share their thoughts on building a campus culture in which supporting student success is truly a shared responsibility? What role might you play in cultivating those conversations?

As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and reflections. Please “leave a comment” and be part of the conversation.

If you would like to have a member from the research team present findings from the Supporting Student Success study and/or facilitate a conversation on your campus, please contact Tricia Seifert at Tricia.Seifert@utoronto.ca

Referrals Rather than the Run-around

Over the last few weeks we have shared information about how faculty and staff learn about programs and services and how aware each group was of the programs and services at their institution. This week, we focus on how often and to which areas faculty and staff refer students.

In the second phase of the Supporting Student Success study, we spoke to students and they routinely shared how much it meant when someone took the time to refer them to the right person, program or service.  Sometimes these referrals came in the form of a faculty or staff member literally walking the student to the correct person’s desk. We also heard the flip-side. In absence of a referral, students talked at length about running around campus trying to get an answer to their question.

Referrals rather than the run-around. Sometimes it is the small actions that provides a large amount of support.

Think of all the situations where a referral could occur. A faculty member meeting with a first-year student who is struggling with writing could refer to Learning Support. A Residence Life Coordinator upon hearing that a student is looking to get in better shape could suggest they look at intramural and fitness programs in Athletics & Recreation. A student shares at an open house that he wants to study abroad. Another student asks a staff member about getting involved in research in their psychology program.

Faculty and staff were given a list of 25 programs and services that may exist on their campus and had to identify if they Never, Rarely, Occasionally, or Regularly referred students to each of the areas in the past year.  The following 6 charts show the faculty and staff responses to these 25 questions. We have grouped them into similar or related services. We encourage you to focus on which group (faculty or staff) refer more and think how these differences compare to faculty and staff members’ awareness of programs and services that we shared in last week’s post.

Specific Student Populations

Ref to Specific Populations

The above chart represents how often faculty and staff refer students to international, first-generation, and aboriginal student services. Staff reported referring much more often than faculty to all three areas, particularly to international student services. Many colleges and universities across Canada have made concerted efforts to recruit an increasing number of international, first generation and Aboriginal students. What might it mean that more than half of the faculty and staff respondents reported never referring students to the programs and services dedicated to supporting these students?

Personal and Well-Being

Ref to Personal Well Being

This chart represents how often faculty and staff refer students to services related to personal and well-being. Not surprisingly, both faculty and staff reported more referrals to counselling and health services. This suggests that both faculty and staff are talking to students about their health and wellness, although it appears fewer conversations result in referrals to areas that promote physical activity (athletics and rec) and/or spiritual well-being (religious and multi-faith resources).

Academic Services

Referals to Academic Services

The above chart demonstrates that both faculty and staff reported comparable referral patterns to academic services. Considering that most students attend college or university to earn a credential, it is encouraging that faculty and staff alike are referring students to make the most of their post-secondary experience by using the library, accessing learning support services for everything from test-taking strategies to writing skills, requesting and receiving accommodations for accessibility needs (when appropriate), and seeking advice on their program of study.

Student Life and Experiential Education

Ref to Student Life

Regarding referrals to student life and experiential education, a different pattern emerges. Staff reported a great deal more referrals to these programs and services  than faculty. Recalling last week’s blog post, leadership and service-learning were two of the areas faculty were least aware of, consistent with the above findings. Consider what opportunities for student learning and development might be missed as a result of these referral patterns.

Administrative Services

Ref to Admin & More

Overall, staff reported referring more often to the above services than faculty. Given there are a number of academic reasons why one would visit the registrar, it is not surprising that faculty reported making referrals to the registrar more often than the other services in this category. That being said, it is interesting to note that relatively few faculty and staff reported making referrals to food banks and in the case of faculty, to equity services.

Other Programs and Services

Ref to Other

Faculty reported referring more often than staff to undergraduate research opportunities and ombuds offices, which is not overly surprising given the academic relevance of both services. Staff reported more referral activity related to student clubs and student conduct offices when compared to faculty, however, less than half of the faculty and staff respondents reported referral activity of either type.

Implications & Questions to Consider

1. In many areas, more than 50% of staff said they had not referred anyone in the last year. How much of this could be attributed to students not asking about programs and services and how much is a result of staff members not knowing the programs and services in place to support students?

2. Among the academic service areas, faculty and staff patterns were quite similar. Is this indicative of a shift towards a shared responsibility for students’ academic success among both groups? What opportunities exist to strengthen faculty referrals to student life and experiential education areas?

3. How much emphasis is placed on helping students, once they raise questions or ideally in advance, get to (in some cases literally!) the programs and services that can support them throughout their post-secondary experience?

We are not suggesting that everyone needs to refer students to all areas all the time, but what opportunities are missed when faculty and staff report never referring students to certain programs and services? If a student comes to a faculty or staff member and attempts to engage in a conversation, can a faculty or staff member pick up on the student’s interests or challenges and help get them to that ‘next’ spot? How do we ensure faculty and staff are knowledgeable and resourceful such that they can refer students in need? We welcome your thoughts on these questions. Please “leave a comment” and share what you are doing on your campus to develop a culture of referral rather than the run-around.

Next week is our 4th and final post on the topic and it focuses on partnerships. Who partners with whom and how often?