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Becoming a Golden Hawk means more than just cheering on our (really good) varsity teams – it means being a student who cares about your community, who works hard in the classroom, and who takes advantage of all the learning opportunities that can happen outside the classroom, too.

Aug. 7, 2018

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Wilfrid Laurier University’s Access 2 University (A2U) program was one of the campus support programs highlighted in Wendy Glauser’s University Affairs article, “Universities make way for the ‘non-traditional’ student.”

The Laurier feature is shared below. Visit University Affairs to read the full article.

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Access 2 University (A2U) builds on the work and expertise of a local community organization to help non-traditional students apply to, and succeed at, university. For the past two years, professors at Laurier have partnered with The Working Centre, a non-profit organization in downtown Kitchener, Ontario, that works with people who face unemployment and poverty. Young people who use the centre’s services are encouraged to apply to A2U, which prepares participants for university-level learning through five free, half-credit introductory courses. Laurier staff and two representatives from The Working Centre select 15 applicants for the program each year.

The applicants “tend to be newcomers to Canada, sometimes refugees, and they’re almost all the first generation in their families to attend university,” explains Bob Sharpe, a professor in Laurier’s geography and environmental studies department and a faculty liaison with the program. “They face a whole range of obstacles including income problems and mental health issues.”

The program starts with an orientation session at The Working Centre, where students learn “the expectations that universities have, basic time-management skills, and how to improve their written and oral communication skills,” Dr. Sharpe explains. Next, they take two courses that have been designed specifically for them, are taught by instructors who employ diverse teaching methods and offer targeted learning supports. The students then take three first-year arts courses of their choice, which can count toward a future degree. Once they complete the five courses, they can apply to an undergraduate program at Laurier or elsewhere.

Students in geography and environmental studies at Laurier who are registered in that department’s community engagement option help out as teaching assistants for A2U – they break down course readings and assignments, provide a sympathetic ear and refer A2U students to on-campus supports. Meanwhile, The Working Centre staff are available as an off-campus resource for an A2U student’s needs that fall beyond the university’s scope. When one A2U student got evicted, for example, centre staff helped that person find another apartment and move. Having that extra support helps A2U students focus more of their attention on school and a little less on the significant challenges that may have kept them from furthering their education in the first place.


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