Best wishes for a fulfilling 2011
The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) cares about the success of our students. In keeping with that, the new issue of Connections provides you with techniques to help you succeed, and stories of student successes including valuable studying tips or easy ways to help you stand out in class. If you are a mature student, read advice from Edward Fenner, a master's candidate in Science and Technology Studies and the recipient of the Murray Ross award, one of the most prestigious awards that recognizes academic standing and involvement in the community. Students Mary El'Bably and Shawn Baldeo also deserve praise for their activities outside the classroom. Shawn, a participant in our new Mentoring for Success Program writes about his experience as a mentor while Mary, a single mom who came to York after leaving a full-time job, reflects on how her involvement outside the classroom helped her transition into university and led her to being the founding member of the Student Association for Single Parents (SASP).
I trust that you will find this newsletter interesting and valuable. Thank you to Mary, Shawn, Edward and our other many contributors. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all student leaders, student ambassadors, student volunteers, faculty and staff who have contributed in myriad ways to providing our LA&PS students with a fulfilling and intellectually stimulating experience.
Studying Tips from York Professors
Advice that could lead to an A
Overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin? From simple and straightforward to more in-depth and creative, our profs have some helpful ideas that will ease your anxiety and give you more confidence.
Professor Gail Vanstone, Department of Humanities, suggests...
- Review lecture/class discussion soon after class to clarify your grasp of ideas and concepts
- Increase your retention potential: study when you're fresh
- Record your ideas and listen to the replay: the more senses you involve, the greater the potential for learning
Professor Radu Campeanu, School of Information Technology, suggests…
- Schedule plenty of time for study
- Learn by examining examples taught in class or shown in your textbook
Professor Barbara Crow, Associate Dean Research, suggests…
- Do the course readings
- Discuss readings with fellow students - what are the main arguments, how do they relate to course content
- Think about the course content
Professor Joanne Magee, Director School of Public Policy and Administration, suggests…
- Plan in advance / make a studying schedule - having clear deadlines ensures you have enough time to study all the exam content
- Read your course outline and keep on top of your work / do your homework (therefore what you are studying you have already read/learned before)
- Make clear and organized notes - sometimes it’s helpful to colour-code
- Talk to your professor in advance (not the night before) - profs can help clarify difficult technical points, give you helpful hints on how and what to study, or guide you to which content is more important
- Switch up your studying scene (library, room, coffee shop)
- Have a system (if you learn by doing questions, do more questions. If you remember things by writing/typing, make summary notes or do charts)
- Have supplies (make sure you have pens, paper etc., so it's fun to study and use them)
- Utilize study aids provided by your professor (e.g. old exams) or the Faculty (peer mentors, study groups, etc.)
- If you can’t focus, switch subjects or take a five-minute break; there is no point in studying when you absorb nothing
Professor Haideh Moghissi, Associate Dean External Relations, suggests…
- Do the readings during the term
- Take notes in the class. This helps you to listen to the lectures
- Summarize the main points in preparation for the exam
- Be concise and precise in responding to exam questions
Professor Jon Sufrin, Department of Humanities, suggests…
- Read actively, not passively: As you review material (or prepare for class), practice remaining conscious about what you're reading. In a way, think about this as if you were "talking back" to the text. Don't just absorb what it says, but think critically while you read. Be aware of where you agree or disagree. Ask questions (or make comments) about what you were reading, as if the author were there to answer them. This will help you to identify what you understand and what you don't, and what interested or challenged you. If you can ask questions about the text, you are engaged with it.
Personal Tip: You are entirely allowed to "disagree" with a text. In fact, it is a good exercise to find weaknesses in what you read—places where information is unclear, poorly argued or expressed, or doesn't seem to fit with the overall argument being made.
- Taking good notes: Students often ask: Should I take notes when I read? The answer is, yes. First, except for those few lucky people with photographic memories, we aren't going to remember everything we've read. Taking notes will easily remind you of key ideas that the author has made. Second, taking good notes means that you are reading actively— taking down things that you don't understand, or find interesting, or disagree with. Third, taking notes is a way to make the information "yours"—that is, to restate it in your own words and therefore understand it better.
- When studying, don't just read, recite: This doesn't just mean to read your notes out loud, though in a very simplistic sense, reading them out loud forces you to be "active" in your studying— we all know how our minds can wander or "switch off" as we read silently. But, more than this, can you take the definitions, the concepts, the themes, and explain them to yourself? This, forces the learner to "own" the information, and tests whether they can apply it. Speaking out loud helps you identify what you don't understand. It's one thing to read the same definition over and over again, but can you use it?
- Form a Study Group: Study groups help us to fill in gaps in our own notes or understanding. They allow us to help each other—either by providing a push to study, or providing an opportunity to discuss areas where we need help mastering the material. They also embody the "recite, don't read" principle above, but in an even more effective sense. If you can explain an idea so YOU understand it, that is one thing—but if you can explain it to someone else, in your own words, out loud, then you know you "get it" AND that you can explain it again on a test or exam.
Professor Julia Richardson, School of Human Resource Management, suggests...
- Engage fully with the topic/course - in some respects if you really engage with the course, the marks will follow—this is a much better strategy than simply focusing on getting a good mark because otherwise you are thinking too much about the end product versus learning from the entire course content. Remember, learning is an enjoyable experience so engage and enjoy!
- As you engage with the topic you will develop a much more dynamic understanding of course content - i.e. how topics relate to each other and the implications of one theory or concept to others.
One way of developing this more dynamic and holistic understanding is through the use of mind maps where you map out your topic, essay question and potential answer on a piece of paper (see sample mind map). This gives you a pictorial overview of your topic; plus, it is really helpful for preparing for exams and understanding the theoretical and practical implications of your recommendations/answer. If you are working in groups, try to create a mind map as a group—you will be surprised at how much you understand and the connections you make between concepts once you see them mapped out.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help—either from professors or fellow students. Nobody has all the answers but collaboration invariably yields huge benefits for your own learning and for others.
Ten Easy Ways to Stand Out in Class
Impress your profs and get more out of your courses
Whether you're in a lecture hall with 500 students or a small seminar with 30, here are some guaranteed ways to get noticed.
- Show up - sounds easy enough, right? If you're juggling jobs and kids, it can be tough. But in many courses you will find that reading the textbooks and completing your assignments is simply not enough.
- Arrive on time, consistently - try not to be one of those people who sneaks in 10 minutes late. It's very disruptive to your peers and your professor.
- Don't leave during breaks - believe it or not, your professors and TAs take notice of who's missing after break is over. Go grab a coffee or stretch your legs, but make sure you come back.
- Don't sit near the back - try to sit closer to the front where your professor can see and recognize you.
- Stay awake - make sure you get your sleep, bring a snack and some water.
- Pay attention - keep off of your cell phone, Facebook, etc. Be interested and engaged.
- Come prepared - do your readings, complete assignments on time, study for tests and quizzes.
- Participate actively in discussions - share your ideas, answer questions, ask questions, challenge ideas.
- Take risks - tackle a tough assignment or essay topic, lead a small group discussion, speak up, volunteer to present your group's project, debate on an important issue.
- Ask for help when you need it - have a question? Feeling stuck? Visit your professor or TA during their office hours. You might want to create a study group too where you can share ideas and work through the course material together.
Tips for Mature Students
By Edward Fenner, master's candidate in Science and Technology Studies
You are not alone. There are thousands of other mature students at York & Glendon.
- Have confidence in yourself. It takes time to adjust to campus life.
- Network. Get to know your professors, teaching assistants, college master, academic advisor(s) and the friendly people at ACMAPS and your peers at YUMSO and the life-savers at York's libraries.
- YUMSO (101E Vanier) is the social group for mature students with events and a quiet study space.
- ACMAPS (111 Central Square) is the York service bureau for mature students and offers guidance, events, and many services.
- Learn to budget your time and balance your life. ACMAPS has workshops on these and on things like taking notes and using library resources - all free.
- Be brave. Try to answer and/or ask a question at least once per class. Do not be afraid to ask for help or clarification if you do not understand something.
- Age can be an advantage and is not a roadblock. Margaret Campbell graduated with a BA in Humanities in 2010 at the age of 75 and stole the show at her convocation! York has had students in masters programs in their eighties and loving their studies. Adult learners often have excellent and applicable life experiences to offer during class discussions and assignments.
- You can succeed! Mature students are hard-working, dedicated, and can compete with the youngster students.
- Have fun. Make some friends. Attend some fun events. Visit a gallery or an open reading, lecture, or performance. Enter a contest. Write a play. Sing a song. This is your time, too.
- Give back. You have valuable knowledge, skills, and experience. You can tutor, mentor, or help with activities at YUMSO or in your program by helping your peers.
Edward Fenner founded YUMSO in 2004 and was the first student advisor at ACMAPS when they opened their office in 2007. Edward graduated with an Honours BA (summa cum laude) in professional writing in 2010 where he was also awarded the Murray G. Ross Award - York's highest honour for a graduating undergraduate - for high academics and contributions to the York University community.
Building a Supportive Community
A single parent returns to academia
By Mary El'Bably, Sociology
Returning to academia after full-time employment and experiencing life as a single parent was a challenge which I knew was going to require dedication and commitment. I knew I had to work harder than most students. Having recognized that I was privileged to have a mentor during my first year to assist me with the challenges of transitioning into university, I felt that I should share my own experiences to help those who could benefit from them. I volunteered to be Class Representative for several Faculties and attended events for various associations on campus. By the end of my first year I was elected a council member for the Sociology Undergraduate Student Association. This allowed me the opportunity to engage with other students regarding their on-campus experiences and needs.
Having recognized my interest in selecting courses pertaining to social realities and social justice, I enrolled in a course titled Sociology of Gender, for which I wrote a paper examining the gender equality among single parents who are employed. To narrow down my theoretical framework, I examined the gender equality within my own academic walls. I found that, despite the availability of extracurricular programs available to single parents, there is a lack of available programs geared towards assisting single parents within academia.
The engagement among students and faculty members during my first two years, in addition to my research on gender equality while being a single parent, inspired me to form the Student Association for Single Parents (SASP), an association geared toward assisting single parents. I diligently applied myself to develop a constitution, set by-laws and apply for recognition and funding through various on-campus centres and Faculties. I developed an event plan for the current year, interviewed students for executive positions and delegated tasks efficiently.
Today, SASP consists of seven executive members, alumni advisors and faculty mentors. SASP is recognized by the Centre for Student Community and Leadership Development, the York Federation of Students, McLaughlin College and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. Our events include Meet N' Greet, Career Day, Study Fest and Community Day. Our services include a book-exchange program, counselling services, office hours, lunch talks, links to on and off-campus resources, recognition certificate program and much more to come.
Thinking of SASP beyond today, our hope is to create a supportive community that will enable parents to achieve academic goals, prepare them for future careers, as well as positively influence the rest of their lives. Our mission is to create a vibrant community for building relations and sharing experiences. Our current, annual goal is to raise $2000 for scholarships to award single parents at York.
Our future goals are to create more scholarship opportunities and form an information handbook for parents complete with resources and information available at York and within the community. Furthermore, we will continue assisting parents in achieving excellence through a diverse range of resources that will strengthen their academic abilities and bolster their confidence by introducing unique and valuable opportunities.
Add Extra Dimension to your Degree - Internationalize it!
By Edward Fenner, master's candidate in Science and Technology Studies
A world of opportunities awaits you when you broaden your reach beyond our borders. Sometimes, however, you do not have to leave home to gain valuable international experience.
But what does it mean to "internationalize your degree"? Simply, it means providing students with opportunities for gaining international experience and for developing the skills to function effectively in the world. Through York International, the University offers students many ways to internationalize their degree:
- Study abroad as part of an academic York Exchange Program
- Work abroad as part of the York International Internship Program
- Take a study abroad course as part of their degree program
- Take part in international programs here at York such as the Emerging Global Leaders Program (EGLP)
- Take York courses with international concerns or studying particular areas of the globe through some of York's international degree programs
- Volunteer for the Buddy Program which matches new international students with returning student mentors
- Study a language by taking an academic language course at York
- Go abroad to study, work, or volunteer independently, and tying this in to your study at York
- Learn from international and exchange students, faculty, and staff, as well as Canadians with international backgrounds.
Please visit York International at 200 York Lanes or online where you can also find links to our listserv, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
A Guiding Voice
What it's like to be a mentor
By Shawn Baldeo, Criminology
The Mentoring for Success Program offered by the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies provides students with the opportunity to become a mentor for a wide range of different programs including Peer Mentoring, COACH, Fundamentals of Learning, and more.
As a mentor, my primary role is to impart the experience and knowledge I have gained as a York student and share it with fellow students, or my 'mentees'. At the same time, mentees are given an opportunity to build friendships, receive insight about campus activities, and smoothly transition into university life.
At the beginning of the school year, I was trained by faculty experts on the best methods of assisting fellow students to overcome their barriers. Associate Dean of Students Marilyn Lambert-Drache and Professor Robert Kenedy provided an in-depth discussion of how to mentee students in a manner that facilitates educational success. The environment in which students are taught greatly impacts their ability and motivation to learn. Program Director and Instructor for Fundamentals of Learning Brian Poser discussed methods of keeping students engaged, which is essential for academic improvement. This has provided me with the skills necessary to help mentees while at the same time developing my own personal growth.
Over the years, I have developed communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills that have helped me achieve success throughout my undergraduate experience and which I share with my mentees. I primarily communicate with mentees through e-mails on a bi-weekly basis. In some cases, however, I found it more appropriate to mentor students over the phone or meet with them in person. This has developed my interpersonal skills as I am frequently interacting with multiple students, networking, and making friends.
Mentors have knowledge of the vast resources available to students. Some of these include: the Centre for Student Success, YU Learn, as well as the library, career centre, counselling offices, and more. Through the mentoring experience, I also had an opportunity to learn about resources that were not known to me in the past and I am able to share these findings with my mentees.
In addition, there are a host of workshops, clubs, conferences, and other extracurricular activities that students can join to become engaged with the University and their Faculty. Students often do not realize the benefit of being engaged and feel a sense of isolation. Some of the mentees that did get involved have told me that, by becoming engaged, they have gained transferable skills that can be applied to their studies, thereby obtaining success both socially and academically.
Being a mentor provides me with a great sense of pride and satisfaction, knowing that I am able to help others in a valuable way. Students often have questions they need to ask and there is no better resource than upper-year students who have been in their position. This small gesture can have a significant impact on the success of mentees. The most rewarding experience of being a mentor for me was having students thank me for assisting them in realizing their potential as this affirms that I have made a positive difference in the lives of others.
Being a mentor has provided me with an avenue to identify barriers students face and implement strategies to rectify specific issues. In addition to the formal training received, my personal work ethic that has enabled me to achieve success can now be shared with other students to accomplish their own goals. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone who would like to build upon their leadership and communication skills, and those who are passionate about helping others in our York community.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor for the winter term please e-mail: email@example.com.
If you are interested in becoming a mentee, please visit the Mentorship for Success Program.
Q&A with a Humanities Student
Alison Sanelli dishes on life and York
Q: Why did you come to York?
A: I came to York for many reasons. For one, I was able to get a helpful bursary for my grades in high school. Another reason is the fact that both my major and minor fit well together and I can take many other courses that help towards my degree. That’s one of the pulling points at York, most programs let you take a range of courses without the risk of you falling behind to graduate.
Q: Proudest York moment?
A: It was this year when the Students for Canadian Studies club was hosting a lecture series. This particular one brought in many professors from York and the University of Toronto. I was so proud to have so many people in one room that really cared about what was being talked about.
Q: What inspires you?
A: What inspires me the most is when people do things for themselves. They look out for themselves to lead them to their success. This inspires me because those people worked hard to get what they have and they didn’t drag anyone along with them. It’s a good life lesson, to look out for number one because only you can make or break how successful you will be.
Q: Favourite book and why?
A: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. One reason is because of how he writes. Fitzgerald writes so descriptively and pulls in the reader with his deep emotion brought out in every sentence. Every scenario that took place during the 1930s is very much similar to those going on in present time. The difficulties in class, love, war are all things that everyone can relate to today.
Q: Favourite course and why?
A: My favourite course is Introduction to Canadian Studies. This course is both a Humanities and Canadian Studies mix. The main reason why I enjoy this course the most is because it teaches you all about Canada’s history. Canadian history is so important and this course teaches you how to understand Canadian culture and Canadian identity. Every significant thing about Canada is taught in this course and it shows you how relevant it is to Canadian society today.
Q: If money were no obstacle and you could do any three things, what would those three things be?
A: The top three things I would do are: 1) Travel all around the world, I’d stay in each country for a few weeks and learn about the culture. 2) I’d move to Los Angeles and live on the hills facing Laguna Beach. 3) I’d put away a certain amount of money and just spend it all on clothes, cars, and of course Black Jack. It is difficult to think about what you would do with unlimited money, but those three are my broad ideas.
Q: Who do you admire most and why?
A: The person I most admire is my great grandmother. She is 92-years-old and still lives on her own, drives and goes out. She is smart as a whip and completely someone that I want to live up to. If I can be as smart and lively when I get to her age I would be grateful. She is the best person to consider as a life well lived. I love her dearly and, because of her attitude towards life, is one of many reasons why I admire her.
Q: Advice for new students?
A: The best advice I could give new students is to keep on top of your readings. It makes a huge difference in the tutorials because of the participation marks, and being able to get different perspectives by other students on the reading. I would also say it is a good idea to do something outside of school. By being part of something else it gives you a chance to meet new people, give a break from stresses and it looks good on a resume coming out of school.