(L to R) Nancy Johnston, Tim Rahilly and Kate Ross. (Missing: Bill Radford, William Lindsay, Kris Magnusson, Scott Timcke and Paige Mackenzie.)

SFU's Mission: Student Experience and Success

November 04, 2010
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The Student Experience and Success theme team is the only team that includes student representatives— which is both an opportunity and a challenge, says team lead Tim Rahilly, associate VP-students and international.

“One of the great things about it,” says Rahilly, “is the students will keep us jaded administrators honest. Their experience of the university is very different than ours. So making sure their voices are heard is an essential part of my role in chairing our group.”

On the other hand, he says, “the students are much more interested in the broader conversation represented in the academic plan than they are about accreditation.”

“So we’ve selected a subgroup to work on accreditation, which the students don’t have the necessary time for anyway, and we’ll share the results and get input from everyone.”

Rahilly’s teammates include registrar Kate Ross, student affairs executive director, Nancy Johnston, internationalization director Bill Radford, Office for Aboriginal Peoples director, William Lindsay, and education dean Kris Magnusson. The two student members are communications PhD student Scott Timcke and Paige Mackenzie who is completing a BA with a major in international studies.

For the academic plan, the team is focused on creating multiple admission routes to attract a more diverse student body, increasing student retention rates, developing a more navigable curriculum and improving course access, and diversifying the university’s pedagogy.

For the accreditation project, they’re employing a number of indicators to assess student experience and success, including surveys of various aspects of campus and academic life and SFU compiled retention and completion data. They will also analyze National Survey of Student Engagement and participation levels in initiatives such as Residence Life, Work Integrated Learning, SFU International and Recreation and Athletics.

Rahilly sees both the self-study and the academic plan as opportunities for transparency. “We often look at our identity and try to figure out who we are and what we want to be. And articulating these things in the form of goals and outcomes gives us a chance to say, ‘yes, I like this’ or ‘no, I don’t like this, and we should be going in a different direction.’”

Plus, he says, both projects “offer a real chance for people from different constituencies to engage on the topic. We’ve got a dean on our team, we’ve got students on our team, and we have administrators on our team.

“And, you know, it’s not always the case that we have an opportunity to put our heads together with our colleagues who are in a different part of the university, to talk about something we have in common.”

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