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Lassonde reimagines academic orientation for a more engaging student life experience

In Fall 2023, the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University piloted a reimagined academic orientation experience, embracing a more interactive and engaging approach for the annual event that welcomes hundreds of first-year students.

In previous years, incoming students were invited to sit for a two to four-hour period in a lecture space where they listened to presentations about resources, supports and life at Lassonde. This year’s pilot broke the mould by offering a more dynamic and engaging experience where students got to explore campus, connect with peers and discover resources.

The key shift was a focus on interactive activities and building connections with peers, upper-year students and faculty members. Rather than stationary presentations, various activities took students across the campus and included lab visits, interactions with faculty members and engineering and computer science-themed activities and challenges.

“Lassonde utilized both staff and students to deliver an innovative approach to Academic Orientation that resulted in success for new students,” says Jair Kallidumbil, Manager of Student Life, Student Community and Leadership Development in York’s Division of Students.

Students walking across campus on academic orientation day
Students walking across campus
Students visiting the VR Sandbox on academic orientation day
Students visiting the VR Sandbox

“Our aim was to create an orientation that reflects the changing needs of our students,” says Mitchell Burnie, Assistant Dean of Students at Lassonde. “Breaking away from tradition, this year’s interactive orientation fostered student engagement and community building.”

This new approach was informed by data and feedback from students, who showed a strong desire for increased interactivity and more opportunities to connect with their peers. “Data collection in the previous two cycles at York University showed that 88% of incoming students were looking for information at Academic Orientation to be delivered in a more interactive format,” says Kayla Lascasas, Manager of Student Engagement and Retention at Lassonde. “We wanted to ensure that we invited our students to the table to co-create Academic Orientation, allowing their lived experiences to also inform our approach.”

Programming for the day was developed by a team of faculty, staff and – most importantly – students, allowing them an opportunity to get creative, gain valuable skills and shape their own experience. The benefits of this new model were evident by the high level of engagement observed throughout orientation day.

“I think it’s important that students are a part of the solution,” says Adrian Fagarasanu, a final-year Computer Science student at Lassonde. “We are the ones who understand the challenges of being a new student and the difficulty of balancing life outside of the classroom with achieving our academic goals.”

This transformation is just one of the many ways that Lassonde’s Student Welcome and Support Centre is working to improve the student experience and to foster a strong sense of community at the School.