With September approaching, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) community is preparing to welcome a new group of first-year students. Trent Barwick, the student engagement coordinator in the transition program at the Centre for Student Engagement (CSE), and his colleagues are organizing events and programs to help get students involved on campus. According to the CSE, getting involved in campus extracurricular activities develops problem-solving and time management skills, which help students succeed in their academics.
The CSE offers programs to all students. “I focus on those students transitioning into the UTM community,” says Barwick. He highlights the importance of programs for students at such a formative stage of their lives.
LAUNCH, a CSE student-lead initiative, is a “student forward” program. Academically successful upper year students host weekly sessions about campus life and explore how to become well-rounded community members. LAUNCH includes one-to-one mentoring with student leaders and offers an opportunity to create lifelong friendships with other students in similar programs.
“You’re both in the same situation, just one of the pair has done it for a bit longer,” explains Barwick while discussing the importance of student-driven activities with mentorship opportunities.
This year, LAUNCH will be held exclusively online, allowing all first-year students to participate. Those interested in joining LAUNCH can enrol through ACORN as they did for course enrolment. The program is free of charge.
EagleConnect is one of the Centre for Student Engagement’s most recent projects geared toward first-year students. “It’s new as of last year, and this year, there was room for expansion on the project,” explains Barwick.
Every June, EagleConnect becomes available on Quercus with modules outlining how to prepare for September, as well as tips on time management for university courses. EagleConnect, led by “squad leaders,” is another upper-year student-driven program where new students can connect with older ones and ask questions.
“I remember going into my first year and wanting an opportunity to ask questions,” recalls Barwick. “EagleConnect gives that opportunity to students.”
An additional enrichment program organized by the CSE is the Co-Curricular Record (CCR). Offered to strengthen student resumes, CCR is a way for students to demonstrate a concrete record of their non-academic successes at UTM. This record can be given to future employers to demonstrate strengths and values learned by students while getting involved on campus. Look out for CCR stickers while attending orientation to participate in CCR approved activities to start building your extracurricular resume.
Barwick reminds all UTM students to “be mindful of your limits and find a space to decompress.” Getting involved gives students the opportunity to mindfully balance their academics and extracurriculars, while enriching their UTM experience.
Students can find new pastimes and passions while getting involved on campus. Along with organized programs like LAUNCH and EagleConnect, the CSE supports student groups and academic societies, allowing students to try new and diverse activities.
Extracurricular activities may allow students to find new passions that they “didn’t know [existed] through opportunities provided by the CSE,” says Barwick, in reference to the hundreds of groups and societies available to students. Examples include the UTM Archery Club and independent student societies like The Medium.
Finding your community at UTM can be intimidating, but after more than a year of isolation, it is essential for students to find spaces where they feel they belong and can make new friendships.
If you don’t know where to start looking for ways to get involved or need help determining which opportunity is best for you, the CSE offers two paths of support. Students have the option to visit the CSE Drop-in Centre to discuss options one-on-one, or simply send them an email at email@example.com. Barwick and his colleagues are eager to help students find and get involved in a community at UTM.
Visit the Centre for Student Engagement website for more information on programs offered this academic year. Barwick wants to give incoming students one final tip: “Especially for this September, and I know this is going to sound cliché coming from someone who works at the CSE, but get involved!”