Ahbi Mukherjee
The Silhouette

A new pilot program, Spark, will be a student-led, student-run service of the MSU devoted to setting the stage for student success at the University. The service was proposed by the MSU’s vice-president (education) Spencer Graham and will specifically cater to incoming first-year students at no extra cost.

Spark will begin at the start of the coming fall term and will be designed to provide students with small group environments that facilitate first-year growth and build personal development and reflection skills for undergraduate career. It will introduce students to campus services, clubs and leadership opportunities and encourage extracurricular participation. It will also connect students to their peers and upper-year students to promote increased support on academic issues and associated first-year challenges.

The program will be comprised of weekly sessions that will consist of small groups of participating first-year students and be led by two undergraduate Success Facilitators. Each session will be between 1-2 hours long and will take place throughout the entirety of each term. The topics for each week’s sessions will be planned by the Spark coordinator in conjunction with the vice-president (administration) as necessary. A session may involve leadership activities, presentations from speakers, discussions, journaling/reflection periods, games and other activities. A participating first-year student will have completed the program upon the completion of three self-directed activities within the University or broader community of Hamilton. There will be several optional, open study groups at various points throughout the week to promote building inclusive student learning communities.

Online applications will be made available for students and will ask students specific questions, which will help arrange them into groups. These groups will be created with the intention of dividing students according to diversity of goals, personality types, level of comfort and level of prior engagement.

“The idea for Spark came to me when I was running for VP (education) a year ago. I came up with the ideas through some of my old personal experiences and some things that I noticed in the school community in general,” said Graham. “Students nowadays are very much expected to go to university; its an expectation placed on them by their parents, peers and society and throughout their years at university, they have very little time to sit down and think why they are here in the first-place. That is what Spark will be all about, to open up the box.”

“The idea is that first-years come into the university and they will be put under the guidance and leadership of upper year students to be successful,” Graham said. “So the program is meant to crack open the box on why you are here and what you can get out of university and what first steps I should be taking as a first-year to get to where I want to be.”

Participant spots are first come first serve for the Spark program. It will be open to students from every faculty. As the first installation of the program is a pilot project, the total number of students to be accepted will be approximately 100 per term, however this number depends on the available resources that will be deduced by the Spark coordinator.

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