As more than 35,600 undergraduate and graduate students anticipate returning to Western for a new academic year, the university is preparing the final touches to welcome them back.
“It’s gratifying to know that demand for our programs is as strong as ever,” said Western president Alan Shepard. “We have a robust orientation planned for incoming students that emphasizes safety, academic success, and their active participation in an inclusive community where everyone feels a sense of belonging. We’re ready and we’re excited.”
London Mayor Josh Morgan wished all new and returning students well.
“I’m happy to be welcoming all Western students back to London. Students bring a great deal of energy to our city – London is not London without Western. As a Western alum myself, I’m excited to see what this year’s class will accomplish and wish them the best of luck,” he said.
A home away from home
This weekend, more than 5,500 students will move into Western’s 11 residence buildings, managed by 183 residence staff. Students were able to choose their move-in date and time, from Sept. 2 to 4. Some students, including those travelling from abroad, were offered the opportunity to move in early.
Faculty sophs will provide guidance and mentorship to students in the same program or faculty and residence sophs provide direct support to students in residence, including peer mentorship, academic support and welcoming activities. Both will have access to the residences.
Students in residence will also be introduced to residence safety assistants, who work overnight in the residences supporting safety and security initiatives.
“It takes a village to welcome new students to campus — working with our colleagues in Housing, Hospitality, Facilities Management, our Western Special Constables and Western International — just to name a few. Everyone at Western is invested in creating a supportive home away from home for our students, a place that allows you to learn, thrive and make life-long friendships,” said Chris Alleyne, associate vice-president, housing and ancillary services.
An international welcome
Western will welcome about 1,400 new international students to main campus this year, including 600 first-year undergraduate students and 800 graduate students. In addition, more than 150 exchange students from around the world will join Western this fall.
From Aug. 29 to Sept. 2, international orientation activities include welcome ceremonies, information sessions, a recreation night, campus partner open houses and shopping shuttles for students who want to purchase essentials to help them settle in.
Transitioning to university life, connecting with the local community
Working with the University Students’ Council (USC), the Western community is focused on providing an inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for incoming first-year students as they transition to post-secondary life during Orientation Week, Sept. 4 to 9.
“I often describe OWeek as the best hello you will ever get,” said Sunday Ajak, USC president. “It’s an opportunity for students to meet each other and immerse themselves in our big purple family. To all incoming students, I say welcome home!”
Programming kicks off with opening ceremonies and a concert on Sept. 4. Global Village, a multi-cultural event to celebrate and highlight various cultural groups within the Western community, takes place Sept. 8. OWeek wraps up with closing ceremonies and a concert on Saturday night.
First introduced in 2022, “Care Hubs” will be back for this year’s OWeek in the form of tents at specific locations on campus, providing visible, accessible support to first-year students. Physical and mental health support through the university’s Health & Wellness team will also be available 24/7 throughout OWeek.
“The USC and the university have planned an OWeek program focused on forging connections with peers, faculty and staff, expanding their knowledge of campus resources and supports, and preparing them for a safe and successful school year,” said John Doerksen, vice-provost, students.
Through Orientation Serves (OServes) on Saturday, Sept. 9, new students partner with non-profit organizations for service activities in support of local communities. Activities this year include meeting local Special Olympics athletes; working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to create craft kits for children in hospitals; writing cards for local seniors who may be experiencing isolation; planting pollinators and cleaning up the riverbanks.
New incoming Indigenous students can participate in Indigenous Student Orientation Day on Sept. 1., hosted by the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC). Students can tour campus, take part in social activities, meet ISC staff and student leaders and learn about services and resources available on campus.
The ISC also offers cultural counselling, teachings and guidance through the Visiting Aunties and Uncles program where designated elders and knowledge keepers provide emotional and cultural support to new Indigenous students as they navigate life on campus.
Orientation activities designed for new graduate students take place throughout September such as GradLife101, a self-directed online module, and social events hosted by the Society of Graduate Students, including a tour of Eldon House, apple picking, and trivia and bonfire fire nights.
A safe start
A number of initiatives are underway aimed at enhancing safety on campus as the fall term begins.
Using a harm reduction approach, in-person sessions and online modules are available to students on important health and safety topics including mental health and the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
All incoming undergraduate students are also required to complete gender-based and sexual violence (GBSV) awareness training before they attend campus, and all employees complete mandatory training to support disclosures of GBSV at Western.
The start of a new school year also brings with it a significant increase in pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic on campus. In line with Western’s ongoing commitment to safer roadways and crossings, the university has taken new steps to reduce vehicle speeds on campus.
All campus roadways have now been posted at a maximum speed of 30 km/h or lower and three new traffic calming medians are being installed along the middle of Huron Drive. Two new button-activated crossovers are being installed – one on Huron Drive between the Labatt Health Sciences Building and the practice fields and the other on Perth Drive at the entrance to the Chemistry parking lot.