Inside the Centre for Student Success

  • Library renovations will see University services brought together and perhaps bring campus a sense of community

BY CHRISTINE BEYLEVELDT

ILLUSTRATION BY CYNTHIA TRAN VO

It’s regularly touted that Capilano University doesn’t have a sense of community. Despite small classes and the notable absence of lecture halls, most students come to campus for the sole purpose of attending class and then leaving. But it’s not just classes at the end of the day that students are leaving – CapU students are leaving the University after a year or two for other post-secondary institutions. In fact, a key point of the brand change in 2016 was not just to bring more students to CapU, but to keep current students on until they finish the programs they started.

According to Cyndi Banks, associate vice president for student success, when students don’t have a sense of connection to their school or program, they’re less likely to stay at the institution. CapU’s first residence opened last fall on Dollarton Highway, but there’s still a long way to go before CapU has any sort of social scene on campus.

Banks is seeing to fruition a proposal she started planning nearly two years ago in August 2017 – a Centre for Student Success that will see the main floor of the Library building transformed into a hub of student activity. “The Centre is a collaborative effort and will showcase what Capilano can do to support students and, to help create, as the President says, an outstanding student experience at CapU utilizing all of the resources we have on campus,” she said. “And the biggest resource is faculty.” The Centre will bring many of the University’s existing services to a more central location on campus and provide support for faculty as well.

The Registrar’s Office, Counselling and Career Services are in the Birch building, Information Technology is in the Library and the Writing Centre is in the Fir building. With the exception of a few of these services like the Counselling department, which will remain in its current location for the sake of preserving students’ confidentiality, these services will be relocated to the main floor of the Library. Although moving from one building to another can be an inconvenience, Banks explained that most of these services are taking a student-centred approach and realize that being central to campus will make them more accessible to students.

There’s an abundance of services designed to help students succeed at post-secondary that are untapped. Banks guesses that students leave the University for a multitude of reasons, one of which is a lack of preparedness to cope with the stresses of post-secondary. One of the new spaces, where the computer space where the IT desk in the Library is now, will be the Learning Commons, designed by David Nairne and Associates. This multifunctional space will feature silent and group study spaces, soundproof testing pods, a presentation wall and a Student Life Hub run by student staff. The whole area will also be wireless. Students will have to either bring their own devices to work on or borrow them from the library, but Banks asserted that the computers they have in the library currently take up valuable real estate.

In addition, several classrooms on the ground floor of the Library will be upgraded with new mobile furniture into Active Learning Classrooms, different from the traditional room setup because furniture on wheels will allow instructors and students to reshape their classes to enhance learning in different sized groups.

However, bringing CapU’s services together isn’t all they have in store. A Resource Centre and Library that will be located in the Learning Commons will have access to a volunteer registry and events calendar containing information about events taking place on campus for students to access. This will be available online through CapU’s Student Portal by September. A co-curricular record is also being introduced.

Student Success Facilitator, Remy Marlatt, helped oversee the implementation of a co-curricular record at her alma mater, the University of Guelph, during the last year of her undergraduate. Now, she’s facilitating its implementation at CapU. “Students will be able to log on and see the different activities. It works in sort of a proactive ‘get involved’ way but also in a reactive ‘you’ve already done something’ way,” she said. A co-curricular record is a non-academic record that lists students’ participation in extracurricular activities on campus organized by the skills and experiences they’ll have gained. Currently, students can get a note of their participation recorded on their transcripts if they attend three Chatlive discussions – informal group discussions on topics of prominence – on campus in a semester.

At the University of Guelph, Marlatt explained that activities, clubs and services on campus had to pay into the system to be recognized by the co-curricular record, but CapU has purchased a different system.

Considering apathy is prevalent on campus where students often come and go but rarely stay, current students might not make use of the Centre for Student Success. Some of Banks’ and Marlatt’s ideas to draw students to the new space include hosting activities. What they do know is that tabling is ineffective. “We know this is what students want,” said Marlatt. “Students asked for a space to study, a space to hang out and a space for events to happen when there and the Centre for Student Success facilitates all of those.” First year students will be introduced to the Centre and its services at the start of the new academic year in September through orientation, which will last an entire week. Ordinarily, CapU hosts a street party on the first day of the fall semester to welcome new and returning students to campus, but has opted this year to extend the introductory period and include an array of activities, such as a residence tour and a President’s Welcome Barbeque.

In addition to renovating space in the Library to make room for the Learning Commons, Banks noted that they plan to have landscapers make the east side of the Library more accessible from Greg Lee Way so students can use it as an entrance. As early as this fall, developers could begin construction on the new complex that will occupy the northwestern-most area of Purcell Woods, including a student residence building that will be accessible from campus.

“[The Centre for Student Success], really brings together the strengths of the campus to better serve students and increase the number of students who come here and help more students to stay here to satisfy their educational goals, which is what we’re all about,” said Banks.

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