The south residence buildings on the U of G campus.
The south residences on the U of G campus.

The University of Guelph is building a nest – an online community that will support all first-year students not living in residence as they begin the fall semester.

A Student Affairs initiative, Gryphons Nest is aimed at providing the successful programs that previously took place in person to help first-year students make a smooth transition into university.

Under COVID-19, the University’s priority remains the health and wellness of the campus community, said Patrick Kelly, associate director, residence life.

In the fall 2020 semester, U of G will restrict campus residence to students with special circumstances, such as limited internet access, unsuitable living arrangements for successful studying or lack of alternative housing as well as international students.

Gryphons Nest will help first-year students not living in residences connect with other incoming students in their programs, said Kelly.

“We will work to foster relationships and connections that might typically happen in a more traditional residence setting.”

Through Gryphons Nest, all first-year students coming to U of G will be assigned to a community of up to 50 students. These communities will be based on academic programs. Each community will have an upper-year student acting as an online mentor.

“The program will help students with things like being successful in virtual classrooms, accessing counselling services, finding a balance with their academic work while at home and building their résumé in a virtual setting,” said Kelly.

The online mentors will be trained in building communities, running programs and providing mental wellness support. They will be supported by professional staff also conducting outreach to connect with students.

“As upper-year students, these online mentors have the experience of having gone through university and have made an adjustment to the online setting. They will be awesome resources for these students,” said Kelly.

Programming will be tailored to students’ academic departments and be adjusted to changes to pandemic circumstances and students’ needs, he added.

Other campus partners involved in Gryphons Nest are the U of G’s Library Services, Student Housing Services, Student Experience, Student Wellness, Athletics and Experiential Learning.

“The group that has come together to work on this initiative has a great deal of shared expertise and experience in supporting students in both their transition to university on a personal level as well as in their academic success,” said Kelly.

“We have a committed group of professionals and students who will be working to support these students through their transition to University. The members of this group will go out of their way to make sure the students coming to Guelph feel welcomed and supported.”

Residence Life programs such as the popular House Calls initiative will have a virtual edition, and the U of G library’s resources and programming will also be integral part of Gryphon’s Nest.

The initiative highlights all that the University has to offer incoming students, introducing them to campus virtually, for now, said Kelly.

“Now that the foundation of Gryphons Nest is set, we will be reaching out to academic departments and program counsellors to explore ways to further support the academic success of these students. When they physically come to U of G in the future, they will hopefully have a sense of comfort on campus and it will feel like home.”

To learn more about what the U of G student experience will look like this fall, visit the Virtual Campus page.


Patrick Kelly