King's Principal's Update - Student Leadership and Groups
November 19, 2020
To the King's Community,
In my role as King’s Principal, I have had the distinct honour to meet so many of our students. I am constantly amazed at the values, dedication, and passion they have demonstrated. They have shown great leadership and support, not only for one other but for King’s as a whole.
As we have entered an academic year no one could have anticipated, our students have displayed amazing flexibility to adapt to a largely virtual campus. It has been a term with new challenges and demands like none other and I want to thank all our students for stepping up to help us adapt.
One of the most difficult things for our students was not being able to participate in the many in-person events held at King’s. However, it was a decision that had to be made for the safety of our students. At the same time, our student leaders and groups/clubs were able to develop online programming so students could participate in virtual events and continue to have an adapted student experience.
For our King’s University College Students’ Council (KUCSC), the decision to cancel in-person events, meetings and office hours was difficult, but they knew the safety of King’s students was of paramount importance.
KUCSC launched their first-ever online King’s Connection shop earlier this year, ensuring that all King’s students have the opportunity to purchase King’s merchandise, regardless of where they are located. The response to the King’s Connection online store has been strong, and they continue to receive more orders on a weekly basis.
At the beginning of the fall term, KUCSC organized Welcome Back bags to distribute to new and returning students. These bags contained KUCSC merchandise including a bottle of hand sanitizer, a mask, a stress ball, laptop stickers, and a pen. They have also given out 500 KUCSC-branded masks to students and others since the beginning of the school year. It is my favourite mask and I wear it proudly.
The International Peer Guide Program, offered by King’s International, connects first-year international students with upper-year peers to act as mentors upon their arrival in Canada. Due to COVID-19, many of our first-year international students were unable to come to Canada for their first semester/year. Our Peer Guides have continued to provide a mentorship program to our first-year students and have devised various ways of connecting with their peers online to keep them engaged and help them navigate university. In addition to sending out academic and online studying resources, they have held online events such as a Netflix party, created WhatsApp groups, and arranged for students to study or have dinner via FaceTime. Our Peer Guides have introduced their peers to one another so that they are able to make friends during this time and collaborate on online events.
Despite King’s becoming a largely virtual campus, we have a number of students living in Residence. The Residence Life Staff are doing the same things they have always done – supporting students and building community. Under the pandemic, they are just doing this with smaller numbers, a greater online presence, and greater creativity and safety to meet COVID restrictions.
With those in Residence still eager to socialize in a safe manner, residence staff, including Residence Assistants (RAs), House Coordinators and Online Community Assistants (OCA) are helping to meet those needs in ways that keep physical distancing and other recommended protocols in mind. Residence has continued to hold smaller, in-person events with safety precautions in place, such as bonfires (for up to 10 people), movie and game nights and, most recently, a paint night with an artist virtually guiding them, while more online events were added to their programming including other art events through Zoom.
Over the summer, the Online Community Assistant (OCA) role was developed as a way to provide a Residence-style experience for students who applied for residence but were unable to attend in-person.
Knowing these students were interested in a Residence experience, staff wanted to find a way to stay connected to these students - both to support them, and to encourage them to consider residence in the future. Over 50 students have registered for this virtual Residence community. The OCAs meet regularly with their assigned group and stay in contact with participants through text and email.
Our King’s Academic Mentoring Program (KAMP) encourages a passion for academic excellence and student involvement at King’s. In the past, this was accomplished by engaging in one-on-one meetings, providing timely information seminars on important academic issues, and fostering academic relationships. However, in 2020, while KAMP looks different, it still promotes interaction and connectivity with both mentors and mentees and fosters academic relationships and supports student engagement by incorporating student motivation.
KAMP has utilized platforms including Zoom and Skype, email, and texting to promote a safe and secure network for students to share their stories or express themselves and enhance students’ understanding of their own competency.
They have also continued to host virtual social activities and events, such as the recent Halloween event in which pumpkin carvings, a costume content and Halloween Trivia were held virtually, to promote engagement between mentors and mentees. They have also employed social media, such as Instagram to support our students by providing guidance and tips to de-stress from KAMP mentors.
As the fall term began, many of our clubs began to look for ways to offer their academic and social services virtually.
An example of this would be the King’s Econo-Math Society (KEMS), which is excited to be an active club this year. KEMS’s goal has always been to help students with their academics but also focus on students’ futures. In looking towards offering services online, they realized there are resources outside of the local community that benefit students. This semester, KEMS has been fortunate enough to offer a virtual Interview Workshop, a virtual LinkedIn Workshop with both local and non-local professionals and dedicated a month of resources as part of Networking November.
These are just a few examples of how our student leaders and groups have developed methods to give other students as close to the traditional King’s experience as possible, while maintaining a healthy and safe environment. They have continued to take care of themselves and each other while also taking care of this place.