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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Western’s Off Campus Living group hosts weekly Q&A sessions

Representatives from different campus groups are co-hosting meetings alongside Off Campus Living on Tuesday’s to answer questions from students

Off Campus Living hosts virtual Q&A meetings with various campus groups. // Graphic by Julia Burns.

By Becca Dudek

Every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. for the remainder of spring quarter, the Off Campus Living group is partnering with different campus groups such as LGBTQ+ Western, Advising Center and Tutoring Center, to conduct Q&A sessions called “Ask a Pro!” These sessions are designed to help students who may be struggling with any issues related to the respective organizations.

Julia Burns, the manager of Off Campus living, said in an email that she started these meetings because she wanted students to ask questions in a more “in-person” way than a phone call or email and allow new students to meet and put faces to the people who can help them.

“I hope that the Q&As would be really helpful for new students who never got a chance to see the offices or meet people in person,” Burns said.

Burns said she’d like students to learn about different resources available at Western for students’ academic, personal and future lives. Burns said these meetings differ from calls and emails as there’s a possibility that a student may ask a question that another student has and is too afraid to ask.

Burns said that when a question is answered it may provide new information to students who didn’t have that specific question in mind, but know now. She said it can also be less intimidating when seeing the face behind the answers, making it more welcoming for students to ask questions.

Director of LGBTQ+ Western, L.K. Langley said in an email that the group, unfortunately, did not have any students participate with their session on May 5.

“But these open houses Julia is running are a great way for students to get questions answered if they’re interested in learning more about resources that are available,” Langley said.

Tracy Dahlstedt-Rienstra, health educator and peer sexual health education coordinator for Western’s Prevention & Wellness Services, said in an email that these meetings are a good way to help the departments introduce themselves and the services they offer. 

Dahlstedt-Rienstra said these meetings are better than normal presentation webinars as they’re better to prepare for and rely on the attending student’s problems, not just a set of pre-asked questions.

“I think we are realizing the value of offering online/virtual ways of connecting and sharing information and will continue to do some of these things even when campus opens again,” Dahlstedt-Rienstra said.

Nathan Romond, teaching and learning specialist at Western’s Tutoring Center, said in an email that their upcoming session on May 19 is specifically about Library Academic Services, which is a broader title that includes the Tutoring Center and other groups such as heritage resources and the subject teams. Romond said they are working on updating the branding on that matter.

Romond said the tutoring center has seen a decrease in both calls and emails but speculates that it could be because students may not know they are open since their physical location in the library is closed. He said the tutoring center hopes to reach more students by partnering with Off Campus Living, and thinks these meetings are easier for students who may not be comfortable with calling or emailing the center directly.

“[The meetings] provide an outlet where students can more passively obtain the information they need, but still get in-depth explanations of services and the opportunity to ask questions without the potential stress an individual consultation can put on a student,” Romond said.

Romond said they’ve put together slides to help the session move along and overall just want to give students the opportunity to learn more about the resources they have available and that the library staff wants students to succeed, especially during these times.

“Overall, if we could leave students with just one thing, it would be a sense that every person on the library team wants them to succeed, and is here to help them,” Romond said.

Megan Bryson, assistant director of Advising Services, said in an email that the center has seen a decrease in the number of calls they’ve received but they still see a steady amount of emails coming in.

Bryson said co-coordinator of Advising Services, Amy Appleton, will be answering questions on behalf of the Academic Advising Center. Appleton will be sharing information about how the center is able to support students during this time and other general information about advising.

Bryson said if anyone asks a question that is more individualistic, then Appleton will direct them to specific people in the center.

“We realize that advising questions can often become specific to a student’s individual planning so if she receives questions of that nature, she will be referring them to contact our office directly for a scheduled appointment or drop-in advising session,” Bryson said.

Burns said there isn’t a lot of prep work behind these sessions, as those who are answering the questions are experts in their respective fields. If there is a question complex enough that the staff cannot answer, then they send a follow-up email after doing the correct research. Burns said they plan to continue these meetings when in-person classes start if they are successful.

“We will probably give it a try and see if students come when classes are back on campus,” Burns said.

Burns said no students showed up for the advising center session, but they always stay open for 20 minutes in case a student shows up late. Burns said she thinks it could be due to a number of reasons like not enough marketing, students not having the time or students not needing help.

“I think we will keep trying because it’s worth it if we can help just one student,” Burns said.

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