Laurier's First Year Experience

Laurier shows why it’s No. 1 in student satisfaction by providing virtual resources, supports and exciting opportunities for incoming undergraduate students.

Virtually Welcoming our Golden Hawks

Starting university can be intimidating for many first-year undergraduate students, even more so when experiencing an atypical start to their first semester. Laurier staff and faculty members are working hard to help first-year students transition to post-secondary education through virtual workshops, programs, resources and other initiatives. This unique student experience is why Laurier is proud to be No. 1 in student satisfaction four years in a row. From gamifying experiences and an extended online O-Week to support workshops and wellness programming, the university is welcoming new Golden Hawks in fun and unique ways.

Community is the common thread that ties Laurier students together. Even virtually, the Laurier community is eager to welcome all students and to make them feel at home. While the start of the fall semester will look a little different this year, there are plenty of opportunities for students to get involved and stay connected.

Student Panel zoom call

Laurier 101: An Online Introduction to First-Year University

The Laurier experience starts the day students accept their offers of admission. Since June, Laurier staff and faculty have been in close, regular contact with first-year students, not just to keep them informed about the upcoming term, but to welcome them into the Laurier community, make the transition to university life easier and help them make connections with other students, as well as faculty and staff.

Laurier 101 is in its third year, but 2020 is the first year it has been offered completely online. Incoming students have been attending virtual mock lectures, panel discussions, webinars, question and answer sessions, and meet and greets. In July, about 400 new students participated in a virtual welcome party. Students have even been filming themselves showing off their school spirit with the Laurier cheer – "It’s Great to be a Laurier Golden Hawk." The compiled video will be presented during Orientation Week.

Parents, guardians and other student supporters have also become involved, through a designated section on the Laurier 101 website, as well as regular newsletters and email updates.

Laurier students can visit Laurier 101’s events page to see recordings of past Laurier 101 events, including the welcome party, student and faculty panel discussions, financial aid webinars and mock lectures, and to find out more about upcoming events.

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Online O-Week: Two weeks of Virtual Orientation and Community-Building

Orientation has gone virtual and there is more planned than ever. The Students’ Union has filled two weeks, Aug. 31 to Sept. 4 and Sept. 8 to 11, with events and programs designed to help students meet new people, make friends and learn more about university life, all while having fun.

Students will be assigned a team (either Green Gambits, Red Ridgebacks, Blue Mystics or Gold Novas) and an upper-year student who will act as an icebreaker during Orientation and a mentor for the rest of the year. Check out this year’s theme video.

Students can pick and choose activities throughout Orientation including exercise classes, a collaborative, multi-day interactive game, how-to workshops on topics including tie dye and sign language, trivia, bingo, an open-mic night, a mentalist show, virtual Campus Fest, paint night, escape room and a concert.

On Shine Day, Sept. 12, students and the entire Laurier community will have the opportunity to get involved and raise funds for Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Speakers and Workshops

  • Anti-Oppression Workshop with Rania El Mugammar, an anti-oppression, equity and inclusion educator and consultant.
  • Mental Health Presentation with Wali Shah, who will speak about mental health and wellness through his poetry and personal experiences.
  • Can I Kiss You? A presentation tackling dating, intimacy, consent and sexual assault by Mike Domitrz, author and co-founder of The Center for Respect

 Student at O-Week Event

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“O-Week allowed me to learn so much about being a Golden Hawk. It taught me university survival skills and I met some of my best friends. I loved it so much that I have been involved in O-Week during all four years of my time at university! It is so important for first-years to participate, because O-Week will set you up to learn so much about your home for the next four years, and it will allow you to make friends and study buddies that will be so important to making your Laurier experience golden!”

– Brooke Abbott, fourth-year student, Political Science

“O-Week was probably my favourite university experience. There's no better way to start your university experience than being around people who are in the exact same position as you: eager to meet new people and surrounded by upper-year students who’ve dedicated so much time and energy to making that first week amazing.”

– Bojan Popovik, fourth-year student, Business Administration

Gamifying the Laurier Way

New Golden Hawks can learn to work together and navigate a digital academic environment in the brand-new Laurier Way game, made by students, for students.

Designed by Game Design and Development students and the BGNLab, this series of virtual games help create shared social experiences, build Laurier knowledge and cultivate academic preparation, all in a fun and exciting way.

The games are facilitated by senior students (aka icebreakers) during O-Week to help incoming students connect with each other while learning about the university experience by working together, solving puzzles, uncovering mysteries, and more.

The Laurier Way O-Week Game

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Student Life

The Laurier community is eager to welcome students back and to make them feel at home. Laurier offers various ways to get involved and stay connected.

Laurier Stays at Home

Connecting Off-Campus Students Through LOCUS and #LaurierStaysAtHome

In response to COVID-19 and the university’s decision to shift to a remote learning environment, the Laurier Off-Campus University Students (LOCUS) program has waived its registration fee and is automatically enrolling all off-campus students into the program.

LOCUS is designed to ease the transition to university for first-year students living off-campus through academic, social and personal supports. By automatically enrolling all off-campus students, every student in the program will have a senior student mentor to aid in their transition to life at Laurier.

Students can join in on the fun with the LOCUS #LaurierStaysAtHome program, a virtual way to connect with the Laurier community. The program, which has included BINGO, trivia, MasterChef competitions, karaoke, virtual card games, virtual board games, movie nights and more, is open to any student, in any year, from any campus.

Zoom call

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“Joining LOCUS was one of the best decisions I ever made, especially coming into university not knowing anyone. I was immediately welcomed into a wonderful community that contained fun and supportive staff and students. I was able to join events regularly as an off-campus student, which made me feel included in Laurier's community, and most importantly, gave me the chance to meet most of my amazing friends!”

– Neelesh Rehal, second-year student, Sociology

Developing Connections – and Staying Safe – in Residence

Living on campus is going to look different for first-year students who choose to live in residence this year, but the Department of Residence is striving to make sure students have an amazing experience. Through a variety of virtual and from-a-distance programming, they’ll get a warm welcome and lots of opportunities to meet new people and make friends.

Students with a common interest, program or faculty will be meeting up for events tailored just for them through Laurier’s Learning Communities and Learning Clusters, offered on both campuses. There will be communities of students who love movies, students interested in designing and developing games, singer-songwriters and business and economics students, among others.

There will also be a variety of leadership roles available. Students can earn a leadership certificate by completing a four-part workshop series and can take on leadership roles by joining councils in residence on topics including academics, community outreach, health and wellness, sustainability, equity, diversity and inclusion, and the arts.

Events and programs related to residence’s four learning goals – life skills, academic curiosity and success, self-awareness, and community integration and participation – will be available to all students in residence to help them transition to university and their new home away from home.

Residence room

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"There was one moment that helped change Laurier from a strange, unknown place to my second home. I was talking with my don, early in September, about what I was involved with in high school. He told me I should apply for House Council. I realized very quickly that this opportunity was exactly right for me and was the gateway to learning about what it means to be a part of the Laurier community. Living in residence and growing as a leader in the First Year Leadership program helped me to discover why being a part of the Laurier community means so much to so many people.

Being a part of the Laurier community means being a leader and it means feeling like you belong and that you have a place. Even though five years have passed, I still feel part of this community, because of the Laurier pride passed down to me from all the other people who also call this place their home."

– Sarah Spragg

Student athlete

Staying Active and Connected through Athletics

The Department of Athletics and Recreation is welcoming first-year students with virtual programming during O-Week and working in collaboration with LOCUS to create activities and events for new students.

New this year is the launch of eSport Live. The interactive program will offer league and tournament-based video game play, including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros and sports-based favourites like FIFA, for students in a virtual setting. Stay tuned for the official release coming soon.

Athletics and Recreation is planning many other activities that will be available virtually for all students on or off campus. Programs include virtual fitness and dance classes as well as some potential for some physical distanced intramural play. Sport clubs are planning to continue to run and accept new students, while remaining virtual until spaces are opened again.

During O-Week, Athletics and Recreation will lead a Yoga and Fitness wakeup call every morning for incoming students. Students can follow @wlurecreation and @laurierbrantfordgoldenhawks for virtual programming.

In Waterloo, phase one of the Athletic Complex reopening plan begins on Sept.10 with the opening of the Fitness Center. There will be several social distancing and sanitization protocols in place to ensure the safety of all participants. For details visit Laurier Athletics.

The Laurier Brantford YMCA is set to re-open on Sept. 8 with safety protocols in place. For more details, visit the YMCA of Hamilton Burlington Brantford reopening strategy.

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“When I did my first live stream class from my home during COVID-19 lockdown, I was surprised at how joyful I felt to see my familiar student instructor and hear the familiar workout music. It was the highlight of my week! It was a sense of normalcy I didn't know I was missing. I like knowing I'm working out with others in "real time.” It is great to see students as well. Laurier staff members miss being around students! We're looking forward to connecting with students again in-person.”

Survey response

“You guys were amazing all semester. Thank you so much for making changes to the offerings to make sure we could all keep up with you during the stay at home period. The instructors are so dedicated and enthusiastic – I couldn't ask for a better group of people!”

Survey response

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Student Support

First year at university can be intimidating but also exciting. Laurier offers several supports for incoming students, including learning strategies, academic accommodations and mentorship.

Faculty Members Supporting Students Through Mentorship

This fall, Laurier is launching its first ever Faculty Mentorship Program. About 20 per cent of Laurier’s faculty members, from faculties across the university, have volunteered to mentor first-year students on topics ranging from career goals and challenges associated with a virtual learning environment to support resources and opportunities to build connections. Students will meet virtually once or twice a term for an informal discussion on topics of their choosing. Program organizers hope students will come away knowing that faculty members care about their success and are happy to support them.

Student on phone
Rania El Mugammar

Rania El Mugammar

Virtual Drop-ins and Workshops Through the Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

The Centre for Student Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is inviting first-year students to virtual drop-in sessions, an open house and meet and greets with its student-run groups and associations, which include:

  • The Rainbow Centre (Waterloo) and Queer Sphere (Brantford)
  • The Association of Black Students (Waterloo) and SOUL: Student Opportunity for Unity and Leadership (Brantford)
  • The Centre for Women and Trans People (Waterloo) and Laurier Brantford Women’s Centre
  • The Muslim Students’ Association (Waterloo and Brantford)
  • My Respect (Allyship association in Brantford)

The centre is also partnering with the Students' Union to offer a virtual anti-oppression workshop with guest speaker Rania El Mugammar during Orientation Week.

Crafts, Cooking and Medicine Events: The Office of Indigenous Initiatives Keeps Students Connected

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives has developed some fun and creative ways for students to stay connected. Not only will first-year Indigenous students receive a video walk-through of orientation at Laurier, but also receive a remote learning care package, which includes several items to help support student health and foster a sense of community.

The popular soup lunches hosted at the Indigenous Student Centres on both campuses will be moving to one massive online event this fall. First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students who request it will receive medicine bundles and smudging kits.

Students can keep an eye on the events calendar for virtual events such as movie nights, beading and crafts, a speaker series, cooking demonstrations, Ojibway language events, medicine and teaching events as well as events featuring visiting Elders.

Students can also access free virtual drop-in hours with staff at the Office of Indigenous Initiatives. All Indigenous Student Services can be accessed on MyLearningSpace for quick access and resources.

Medicine Bundle

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“I definitely feel like I’ve made a connection with the Indigenous Student Centre. I received great support from the Indigenous Student Support Coordinator in helping me choose my classes and set things up to succeed when school starts. I only wish I contacted the Indigenous Student Centre earlier!”

Cole Martin King, incoming second-year student, BA Psychology

“I feel like I made a really good connection with the Indigenous Student Centre. When I went on the campus tour last year everyone was so friendly. I loved how they always had something going on that you could take part in. I’ve received a ton of help this summer from Laurier. If I ever had a question about admissions or a program, people there would always send me in the right direction.”

Colton Longboat, incoming second-year Student, BA Policing and Sociology

Student studying

Academic Accommodations

Laurier values diversity and is committed to providing inclusive environments for our student community. Incoming students with temporary or permanent disabilities are welcome to register with the Accessible Learning Centre to access disability-based academic accommodations and supports. Students with disabilities can find available services and seek support through the Accessible Learning Centre.

Providing Academic Support and Learning Strategies for a Successful Semester

Academic excellence remains a top priority in a virtual environment, and Laurier provides a variety of online academic services to support students in their remote and online classes. Students can find a one-stop-resource for online academic learning support in the Remote Learning Hub. The hub features resources such as the Golden Guide to Success in Online and Remote Learning and Strategies for Success in Online Exams.

Students who are looking for more support can register for an academic skills workshop, offered virtually throughout the fall and winter terms. Through these workshops, students can build essential skills, develop learning strategies for remote and online learning, enhance their time management, understand group work fundamentals, and discover study strategies. Visit our workshops page and select your campus for a complete list of academic skills workshops and registration links.

On the Waterloo campus, Study Skills and Supplemental Instruction helps students achieve academic success through learning support, mentoring programs, transition support, tutoring and other initiatives.

Students on both campuses enrolled in first-year math courses can access Math and Stats Learning Support, which features weekly mentoring sessions, drop-in sessions and mock mid-term reviews.

Learning Skills and Development on the Brantford campus can help students develop the skills needed to excel in their studies. Students can sign up for a one-on-one appointment, attend a workshop or take part in a facilitated study group for first-year courses. Incoming students can access all supports online.

Students can take control of their semester with Learning Skills and Development’s personalized study schedule service. Students can bring in their course syllabi and staff can help create a one-page colour-coded term schedule as well as a weekly schedule and reading schedule.

Students are automatically enrolled in the Learning Skills and Development online course on MyLearningSpace, where they will find more academic success resources.

Reading schedule and school supplies

Get Support and Stay Connected

In the transition to remote learning, we know there can be challenges. We’ve compiled this guide for students to find resources and support that make the journey easier. Students can get access to academic support, mental health support and stay connected in one easy place.

Students Union building

Finding New Friends and Making a Difference Through Student Faculty Associations and Clubs

Getting involved in faculty associations is a great way for students to meet others with similar interests, grow academically, explore their interests and have a say in the future of the faculty, since associations often act as a bridge between faculties and the Students’ Union. Some of the events planned to take place virtually this year include virtual conferences, case studies, networking opportunities and guest speakers.

Students also have access to more than 100 clubs, including gaming groups, charity and advocacy groups, and cultural associations, or they can start their own.

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“I’ve enjoyed the Business Technology Management Students’ Association because it’s a great way to build connections, make friends and strengthen relationships with Business Technology Management students across all years, and there are fun social events that help students feel welcomed and connected.

Students can also get tips from upper-year students on how to be successful and they can bond with those who are in a similar academic situation as they are.”

– Ahad Naim, incoming president of the Business Technology Management Students’ Association

 

“Being a part of the executive team of the Faculty Association for Laurier’s Faculty of Human and Social Sciences has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my time here at Laurier! It not only gives me the opportunity to meet new people, it also gives me the ability to build on my leadership experience.”

– Humberto Raposo

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Wellness

Laurier students have access to a wide range of resources to promote and maintain good physical, emotional, and mental health.

Taking Care of Health and Wellness

Laurier’s Student Wellness Centres on the Waterloo and Brantford campuses are offering remote services to maintain student health and wellness – from caring for illnesses, injuries and mental health, to providing essential services such as sexual health testing and treatment, and vaccinations. The team includes doctors, nurses, counsellors, chiropractors, registered massage therapists, a dietitian and physiotherapist, as well as Laurier’s Wellness Education team.

While most services are being offered remotely, the university has made accommodations to arrange in-office visits when necessary – in line with public health guidelines. Visit the Health and Wellness website for the most up-to-date information.

Laurier’s Wellness Education team is made up of professionals and student volunteers who work together to provide resources and programs to support student wellness, all in an inclusive way. The centres’ programs include remote educational workshops, Laurier’s biannual Thrive Week, the Wellness Education Certificate, and social media campaigns and contests. The centres have created a new podcast, Thriving in Progress, which will launch in September.

The Golden Rules

Students can register for the online Golden Rules program, which aims to help build resiliency to thrive at university. Learn about perseverance, confidence, self-compassion, and creating healthy habits. Participants can qualify for Laurier Experience Record credit and a Wellness Education Certificate if they complete all five modules.

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“For me, wellness education was helpful because it helped me learn how to make small lifestyle changes that have had a lasting positive impact in my life. I believe wellness education is beneficial for all students, but especially those in first year, because it teaches us how to prioritize our well-being while maintaining our academics. That’s important because when we thrive mentally, we are much more capable of thriving academically.”

Jessica Linton, third-year French student and peer wellness educator

“Everyone at the wellness centre is always warm and welcoming which makes it easy for me when I need to access services!”

Olivia, third-year BSW student