The first two weeks of school always mean a flood of keen students, an infinite lineup of booths to promote clubs, and this year, if you stopped them, 500 staff, students, and faculty walking around with pins reading “ASKme”.
The ASKme initiative launched this year at UTM after its success at the St. George campus. The campaign ran during Welcome Week and included pop-up information booths. As Jessica Silver, a student development officer and coordinator of the campaign, put it, “The concept for the campaign is for students to know that there is someone there to help them.”
Any UTM-related question was fair game. The volunteers fielded questions from “How do I get to room DH 2050?” to “When do OSAP distributions happen?” Silver also pointed out that the campaign’s timing matched the opening of two new buildings and the relocation of the Sheridan shuttle bus. (In case you didn’t have the chance to ask, it’s now located at the North Building and Deerfield Hall layby.)
Upper-year students sometimes need the help too. “I took a year off and hadn’t actually been at UTM for a while,” said Elisha Williams, a third-year sociology student. “I had no idea which new building the new North was, so I was lost on my way to class, but I looked up and there was this woman standing with a pin with ‘ASKme’ in huge letters, so I did, and I was almost in class on time.”
However, many students I spoke to weren’t actually aware of the campaign or didn’t understand it. Sumeet Singh, a history and political science student, commented, “I thought it was from some kind of event and they just didn’t take it off.”
In fact, I had some trouble finding students who had noticed the campaign. “It sounds like a great idea, but the first two weeks of school are so crowded, I just get in and out as fast as possible,” said fourth-year biology student Meghan McErian. “I would totally miss something like that unless it was really visible and really bright.”
Nevertheless, Silver said that the campaign was a “huge success” for its launch year. And she plans to stick with it as it grows, to see it become an established part of UTM life. “It would be great to have a permanent hub location where students can go to ask questions, as well as a larger online presence for immediate and digital response from anywhere on campus,” she said. “It also means we will have to make a lot more buttons.”
ASKme is also online at askme.studentlife.utoronto.ca billed as able to field questions about anything from weather to tuition. The Medium tried it and so far it mostly has St. George-based answers and lacks a good parser (it links to a map for “Deerfield Hall” but turns up nothing for “Deerfield”), but hopefully it will be developed to be more inclusive and intelligent.
The campaign will run again at the beginning of second semester, so keep an eye out for the pins to help you through the post-holiday haze.