Creating a Positive First Impression

September 17, 2020 | Hamilton | Ontario
Contributed by Chris Gaspic, Marketing and Communications Strategist

As part of Welcome Week, incoming undergraduate students participated in the DeGroote Start Up Experience. Dean, Leonard Waverman, Associate Dean Sue McCracken, DCS President Craig Dawdy, Recruitment and Admissions Officer Victoria Doidge and Manager of Undergraduate and Graduate Specialized Programs Greg Rombough all participated and welcomed new students.

The final week of August is exciting for McMaster. Thousands of students from across Ontario, Canada, and the world connect with each other and the university during Welcome Week.

The DeGroote School of Business welcomed over one-thousand incoming BCom, MBA, and graduate students.

New students met with faculty, student leaders, and staff virtually. They were welcomed into the DeGroote community during August’s final week and the first weeks of September.

Creating a Positive First Impression

Welcome Week planning begins in the late fall and is coordinated by the university – specifically Student Affairs and the McMaster Students Union (MSU). By Christmas, faculty-co-planners are recruited to work with Student Affairs during the early planning stage in January.

At the undergraduate level, student mentors known as Greensuits, known for their green jumpsuits worn during Welcome Week, play a valuable role in welcoming new students with their positive energy and overall passion for everything DeGroote.

In addition to Greensuits, DeGroote launched the Start Up Experience, which connected incoming BCom students with each other in randomized groupings along with their Teaching Assistants (TAs). Through a week-long program, new BCom students met with their first-year instructors. They were exposed to helpful resources to help in their transition from high school and into university.

The Start Up Experience complimented university initiatives such as the Archway program, which paired incoming students with a coach and mentor for an entire year.

Meeting Expectations

Whether in-person or virtually, the goals of Welcome Week remained the same: connecting incoming students with one another, faculty, staff, and most importantly, other students.

Jennifer McCleary, Director of Student Experience with the DeGroote School of Business, explains it this way, “DeGroote is a family, and every student, regardless of their program of choice should feel a sense of connection. The goal always remains the same. How do we welcome all students first to McMaster and then DeGroote?”

While Welcome Week ushers in undergraduate students, the Graduate Student Association and each of the Program Administrators provide transition activities to DeGroote’s Master of Finance, Ph.D., and eHealth programs. MBA students have their own orientation program, called Onboarding Week.

“With our MBA students, they have different expectations. They’ve chosen a program that has a significant impact on career outcomes and the MBA Academic and Career and Professional Development Teams work hard to meet those expectations,” said McCleary. “We started with a month-long Career Launch, to give all incoming MBA students the tools to help with their career search. We also extended our onboarding program from four to six days with an intense focus on morning programming to ensure we met our international students’ needs.”

Like the Start Up Experience, which focused on incoming undergraduate students and connecting them to senior level students, the MBA DeGroote Leaders program also connected incoming MBA students with mentors. Each of these initiatives subscribe to DeGroote’s goal of connecting students to the broader DeGroote family.

“We want to make sure that you feel like you belong right out of the gate,” said McCleary. “All of our students have been in the shoes of a new student, and I tell this to anyone who asks me about what makes DeGroote special; it’s our community. Our students look out for one another and I have been most proud to watch our student leaders step up during the pandemic to support our incoming classes.”

Lessons Learned

The pandemic has forced every facet of business to evolve. The rapid rise of technology and its adoption to solving problems has truly been unprecedented. Delivering an experience that is typically reserved for late-August that many students look back on as the moment they leave home for the first time, was challenging.

“I’d be lying if I told someone this was easy,” said McCleary. “I’m blessed with a strong team who really pulled together. It wasn’t perfect, and we know students desperately wanted to have that in-person experience. Still, this pandemic has forced us to think and act differently. And while we started planning in January for a typical Welcome Week experience, we had to pivot, and we’re better for it.”

From offering multiple sessions for both domestic and international students, to confirming that the technological platforms used are accessible to all students regardless of geography, every consideration was made as part of this experience.

McCleary’s final thoughts on this unusual time? “Don’t let the pandemic ruin your next four years. All of our students are now members of our family, and while we can’t see each other, it’s important we stick together to get through this.”

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