This is the third article in the “Bringing Our Time to Life” series, highlighting how U of G is taking action on our strategic plan. View all Strategic Plan stories. 

Students are at the heart of everything we do. We know our students come here because of the distinctive living and learning experience we offer. 

The third priority outlined in Our Time: University of Guelph Strategic Plan 2022-27 callus to advance U of G’s distinctive student experience that fuels success and future impact. Acting on this priority, we are investing in an exceptional student experience inside and outside of the classroom to prepare our students for success in all facets of their education and in life.  

We are deeply committed to the whole student and to our promise to improve life. To build on this commitment, we aim to guarantee every student an experiential learning opportunity and flexible pathways for studying, support international students to thrive and have a sense of belonging at U of G, and be a recognized as a leader in providing mental health services and supports for our students and their networks. 

Here are some of the ways we are advancing our distinctive student experience. 

Efforts across campus tackle student food security 

A sign advertises the campus food market in the University Centre Courtyard. Set up in the courtyard are tables filled with produce for sale.
The Campus Food Market set up in the University Centre Courtyard.

Throughout Canada, students are struggling with food security. An essential part of investing in the whole student is ensuring their basic food needs are met so that they can excel in the classroom. U of G is a leader in food security, acting as one of three institutions that convened an online conference on the topic.  

Across U of G, initiatives are addressing food security. One of the oldest is the Campus Food Bank, led by the Central Student Association for 20 years. More recently, the sliding scale food market organized by the Guelph Lab, Sustainability Office, and Arrell Food Institute is hosted in three locations across campus to offer easy access to healthy, affordably priced food. This September, a food prescription program started on campus, where food insecure students are given weekly “prescriptions” of money to be spent on food, made possible through a partnership with Guelph Lab and Student Wellness. These are just a few of the innovations happening on our campus. 

Traveller’s Connection Night creates cross-cultural connections 

A room full of students seated around round tables, each table labeled by the name of a country.
Students sit at tables organized by country for Traveller’s Connection Night.

Moving to a new country on exchange can be a life-changing experience, but also quite daunting. To support students as they embark on their study abroad journey, the Centre for International Programs has found a way to bring students together through Traveller’s Connection Night. This event builds valuable connections between U of G students going out on exchange, U of G students who have returned from their exchange in the last year, and current incoming exchange students from our partner universities.  

As students are organized by the country they’re going to or are from, they get a chance to connect, share experiences, answer questions and potentially seed the start of a new friendship that continues when they study abroad. As a result, students are better prepared, start building a support network and can get the most out of their exchange experience. 

Students Find Belonging and Validation through Black and Racialized Student Support Networks 

Tamara Gonzalez Dominguez, SSN Volunteer

All students at U of G have access to the Student Support Network (SSN), a group of students trained by Student Wellness Services who provide confidential support, information, and referrals to drop-ins. As students of Black, Racialized, and Students of Colour face unique challenges and barriers, the SSN offers specific sessions for these students where they can connect with peers who have similar experiences and identities and can openly discuss experiences of racism, discrimination, and microaggressions. 

“Seeing the positive impact of the sessions on students has been incredibly rewarding,” said SSN volunteer Tamara Gonzalez Dominguez. “I have seen these sessions provide students with a sense of belonging and validation as they connect with their peers who help them feel supported and understood.”  

Furthermore, Student Experience launched the Black and Racialized Graduate Student Support Network this year to provide essential support and resources to Black and racialized graduate and post-graduate students. This program offers a series of monthly facilitated discussions and engaging events that explore unique challenges, joys and achievements of graduate and post-graduate studies and beyond for these students. It serves as a dedicated space for connection and mutual peer support, with each meeting guided by a structured discussion agenda. 

Students Gain Real-World Consultant Experience in WACE Global Challenge 

A man and a woman stand back-to-back to pose for a photo against a wood slat wall
Ethan Evans and Payal Mehta were among the first U of G cohort to take part in the WACE Global Challenge

The WACE Global Challenge, available through Experiential Learning, provides a new opportunity for U of G students to gain experience as management consultants. During the four-week challenge, U of G students worked with teams of students from around the world to provide recommendations to small business and organizations that tackle challenges they’re facing. 

By participating in the challenge, students build planning and time management skills while developing learning, leadership and cultural competencies. “As the project leader, I learned as much from delving into the details of the project as from interacting with my colleagues,” said Payal Mehta, master’s student in environmental science and WACE Global Challenge participant. “The friendships and social connections I made worldwide improved my intercultural awareness and made the experience unforgettable.”  

Student Experience Advisors Support Variety of Student Needs 

Student Experience Advisors act as a central connection for students looking for direct support and information about resources and programs both on and off campus. To support the diverse needs and identities of our students, U of G has a range of advisors who can provide specialized support. 

Through Student Experience, students can connect with the Cultural Diversity Advisor, Indigenous Student Advisor, Sexual and Gender Diversity Advisor, Global Pre-arrival Support Advisor, International Student Advisors, Off-Campus Living Advisor, Leadership Education and Development Advisor, Multi-Faith Programs Coordinator, and the Multi-Faith Resource Team that represents a variety of faith backgrounds. As students meet with advisors relevant to their needs, they are better able to navigate the university system and develop the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive. 

These are just a few examples of the many ways our campus community is realizing the vision laid out in Our Time.  

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