Adjusting to Memorial
Student Success program helps students make transition from high school to university
Over 2,000 students, many from small rural communities, are leaving home for the first time this week and embarking on an exciting journey into post-secondary education.
The butterflies some students will feel in their bellies will likely be caused by the insecurities they’ll face living on their own while trying to succeed in a classroom surrounded by more students than the total population of their community.
“ Students have to learn to cook for themselves, clean up after themselves, get bus passes, get certain bills set up and paid. Then there are the students who will be living in residences and they have their challenges as well,” says Tom Brophy, Memorial’s director of student success programs, student affairs and services.
The student success programs help both students and their parents feel welcome in the university environment.
In doing so, Brophy says, the programs also help them deal with whatever problems students encounter, everything from homesickness to course load.
“ We try to let first-year students know they are all in the same boat and that, should things go wrong, we are here to help. All they have to do is ask,” Brophy says.
The first word on the coloured sign leading into Brophy’s office in the university centre is “Answers.”
The catchy poster lets students know they’re knocking on the right door.
From an academic perspective, Brophy says, students may struggle with the transition from high school to university level courses.
“ The pace of academic programs can be tough, but our professors have hours that they are available to meet students one-on-one or they can e-mail them. And we have Math, Physics, Chemistry and Writing work centres to help students as well,” Brophy says.
The Answers office also distributes student loans on the first day of classes.
“Because everyone wants to get their loan as soon as possible there may be line-ups, but that’s part of the transition, too,” Brophy says.
Memorial is the largest university east of Montreal.
Brophy, his staff and over 200 volunteer students were ready to “roll out the red carpet” in hosting MUN’s orientation program Sept. 6 and 7.
Attending orientation is a strong start to the semester, he says.
“ We’re very proud of our university and we want our students to feel the same pride. And research shows that students who meet other students are more likely to succeed,” Brophy says when asked about the goals of the orientation program.
Orientation also offers new students a tour of the campus and an opportunity to “get things done.”
“ They’ll need to get their lockers, buy their books, get their IDs, find out how to get jobs on campus, and all of those things are talked about during our orientation,” Brophy says.
The university’s counselling centre has trained professionals ready to meet with students who are finding the transition more challenging than they’d anticipated.
In order to remain active and healthy, Brophy encourages first-year students to become involved in whatever activities they enjoyed during their high school years.
There are people at the university, he says, who can ensure such activities and creative endeavours aren’t lost.
“ Whatever type of program you were involved with, there’s a way to continue with it... and if there’s nothing here you like, our student council will encourage you to develop your own interests. And there are sure to be other students who’ll come onside with it as well.”
Memorial students Erin FitzPatrick of Marystown and Samantha Swain of the Goulds have been working at the university all summer to ensure all students and their parents feel welcome in the university environment.
Swain coordinated a four-hour orientation session for parents Sept. 6.
A handbook is also available for parents, she says.
“Parents are really involved... They are concerned about their son’s or daughter’s finances and that they have access to other things that they’ve had at home like health services and career and counselling services,” Swain says.
FitzPatrick is working to ensure that the students who come to Memorial for the first time get off to a good start.
“ We want our students to know that they are appreciated. That’s very important to everyone here at Memorial,” FitzPatrick says.
Brophy is delighted with the work Swain, FitzPatrick and everyone else involved with the orientation program have done over the past several months.
All that’s left now, he says, is to wait for the students to arrive.
“It’s like how surfers feel when they are rolling out to catch that first wave... You know it’s going to be a great ride,” he says, but you have to wait ‘ til it catches you. And our students are on the cusp of that now.”
Tom Brophy from the southern shore community of Fermeuse is director of Memorial’s student success programs with student affairs and services.