Welcome Week has the potential to make or break a first year’s experience at McMaster. But it’s difficult to say what this year’s batch of first year students thought about their Welcome Week.

The Student Success Centre (SSC) had originally scheduled Welcome Week focus groups for Nov. 21 and Nov. 22 in which first-year students are invited to voice their opinions on their Welcome Week.  In the past, the SSC has attracted approximately 15 students per focus group. This year, no students signed up.

According to Rachel Nelson, SSC Events Coordinator, the Centre is currently looking into why this occurred. Students were notified of the sessions via a mass email notification sent to their McMaster emails.

The MSU already conducted Welcome Week focus groups in early October. These groups mostly consisted of SRA members who had held a variety of positions in Welcome Week.  The groups looked at the purpose of Welcome Week, scheduling, levy fees, and Welcome Week representatives.

While the MSU coordinates some of the larger events such as the PJ Parade and Faculty Day/Night, the SSC is responsible for organizing move-in, distributing MacPasses and co-ordinating MACademics sessions.

MACademics are the school-oriented sessions run during Welcome Week in order to prepare first year students for the realities they will face in university. This year some sessions attracted up to 100 participants. For the first time, SSC also offered sessions tailored specifically for arts-based students and science-based students.

However, questions have been raised as to whether Welcome Week should have such a heavy academic focus. MSU Executives David Campbell and Huzaifa Saeed have put together a proposal to recommend an “Academic-focused Welcome Week” occurring the week after Welcome Week.

David Campbell, VP Administration noted that it is worth expanding MACademics due to its clear value to students. But he stated that, “Welcome Week should focus on social networking and getting your roots settled … which research shows is essential to academic success and retention.”

The MSU proposal would also aim to involve faculty societies and get more faculty-focused academic support for first year students. However, Campbell noted that this requires a significant amount of planning and resources.

With possible changes looming, it remains unclear what exactly first years think about their Welcome Week experiences. The SSC distributed a First Year Transition Survey earlier in November to ask new students about their overall experience so far. 1,000 students responded to this survey. With plans for Welcome Week hanging in the balance, the time for first year students to speak up is running out.

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