Meaningful connections a hallmark of virtual fall preview day

Photo illustration by Rob Potter / Western News

Western's fall preview day this year will be a virtual event, with more than 50 interactive presentations for prospective students.

This Sunday, more than 300 staff, faculty and student volunteers will introduce prospective students to the Western experience during the university’s first-ever virtual fall preview day.

Because the event is virtual this year, visitors can attend more sessions and speak with more students, faculty, and staff than they would have in a typical in-person year.

About 5,000 prospective students and their families are expected to take part in this year’s event – on Nov. 15, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – which has moved online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

And their experiences will be as personalized as the visitors want to make it, said Dayana Kibilds, manager of undergraduate recruitment.

A full list of events and presentations is available at

“This is the first connection future students will have to their home faculties and future peers and we want to make sure those connections are deep and meaningful,” Kibilds said.

Visitors will be introduced to the day with a welcome video featuring president Alan Shepard (and the family dog Meisha) from iconic University Hill.

That will be followed by their choice of more than 50 presentations and panel conversations about academic programs, residences, student experience and wellness, athletics, University Students’ Council and the admissions process.

All academic programs and faculties will be represented, showcasing different virtual events, from conversations with deans, to alumni and student panel discussions, to facility tours and mini-lectures.

While the presentations are streaming live, students logging in through the Unibuddy platform can ask questions throughout the day that will be answered in real time by faculty, staff, alumni and current students.

Whether they live around the block or around the world, prospective students will have access to the same opportunities and features.

“There are basically 17 virtual, concurrent events going on at the same time,” Kibilds said. “This is by far our largest virtual event this fall.”

A showcase of Western’s breadth and depth

But it is not the only opportunity students have to learn about Western. Every week, undergraduate recruitment hosts 2 or 3 presentations designed primarily for high-schoolers. Each session is attended by 200 – 300 future students who want to learn more about Western, the application process, and their career possibilities.

“That’s one of the advantages of Western: the breadth and depth of options students have. We want to show students that there isn’t one single path to the career they want, and that the possibilities of their future are much bigger than a job title,” Kibilds said.

For students wanting to experience the feeling of being on campus, there is also a 3D virtual tour of buildings and facilities.

While nothing can quite replace that feeling of coming across the bridge and seeing University College for the first time in person, “having the event virtually really does show the magnitude of Western, and its scope and its personality. Prospective students start forming emotional connections to the people – the professors and advisors and their peers – as well as the place itself.”

The volunteers who staff the event are, in turn, energized by the experience, she said. “They love making those connections and getting feedback from students. Even though the questions are text-based and not face-to-face, Western’s strong sense of community is still shining through.”