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Ryerson Experience Fair taps into personal observations of first-year students

By Antoinette Mercurio

Ryerson Experience Fair

An arts course challenged first-year students to propose changes on campus that would help new students transition to university.

Ever wonder where Ryerson’s front door is? Or where to find a particular classroom?

A number of first-year students ask themselves these questions every year. Through an elective social science course, first-year Faculty of Arts students spent this term investigating these common problems and proposing solutions. Their research results were displayed at the Ryerson Experience Fair, a two-day opportunity for 60 students to identify a challenge that first-year students encounter and propose a change to combat that difficulty and ease the transition for new students. The assignment was part of social scientific inquiry, a course that focuses on different approaches such as interviewing and observations to solve real-world issues.

Course instructor Chris Cachia wanted students to think critically about their surroundings and offer insightful information based on their campus experiences

“I wanted them to separate opinion from fact and prove a problem is an authentic one,” Cachia said. “Students know a lot more because they’re on the frontline of the university so they’re able to use their experiences to make changes. They’re doing work that affects and engages the community and shows that the community has a lot to learn from students.”

As part of the assignment, students had to observe their environment, conduct interviews with community members and cite external sources such as peer-reviewed journal articles to support their findings.

Alex Hamilton-Hobbs worked with his group to find a better way to navigate the campus. This group learned that more than 6,500 new full-time students entered Ryerson this year and the Library help desk alone fielded more than 1,000 directional inquiries in one week. They proposed installing a classroom locator in each campus building to help students find their way easily and efficiently. The group discovered that the Ted Rogers School of Management building houses a kiosk in its lobby to help students find their classroom.

“We’re learning a lot about social scientific methods in class so this project was a great way to put those theories to use,” Hamilton-Hobbs said.

Fellow classmate Ramunique Shoker collaborated with her group to examine Ryerson’s identity in the downtown core. They researched the university’s precinct and found there was no geographical separation between the campus and city centre. The group agreed more visible signage in TTC areas and larger banners highlighting programs on campus buildings would help distinguish Ryerson from the surrounding Toronto neighbourhood.

Shoker found the unique experience of doing research allowed her to learn valuable facts about Ryerson’s place in the GTA.

“As one of our sources, we interviewed a professor, which was amazing because it’s rare we get that kind of interaction,” Shoker said. She says speaking to external sources such as journalists also taught the group that certain university projects such as the Image Arts building renovation and Ryerson Image Centre will help Ryerson make its mark in the city.

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