Queen’s Student Affairs has decided against the introduction of a new record that would document students’ extracurricular involvement.
Student Affairs officials spearheaded a project that looked into the development of a co-curricular record system at Queen’s, but abandoned it following consultation with students.
“We have received mixed feedback from members of the student government about the co-curricular record project,”Arig Girgrah, assistant dean of students, told the Journal via email.
Co-curricular records have become standard practice among Ontario universities. Wilfrid Laurier University, York University, the University of Guelph, Trent University, Carleton University and the University of Windsor have all recently adopted their own models of the record.
The record is separate from the academic transcript. The document recognizes a student’s non-academic involvement on campus, listing the activities and programs for the consideration of graduate schools and prospective employers. According to AMS Vice-President of University Affairs Kieran Slobodin, Student Affairs office the AMS didn’t feel there was enough support to justify the project.
“We did a lot of consulting on our side,” Slodobin said. “It was found that the interest wasn’t enough of a spark to go forward with it.”
Representatives from Student Affairs presented a co-curricular record proposal at AMS Assembly on Feb. 16.
The presentation addressed goals and logistics of the program as well as its benefit for students.
After the presentation, Assembly members were given a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns.
Concerns from Assembly members revolved around uncertainty as to whether graduate programs or employers would value the record, and which activities and clubs on campus would be included in the document. The decision to halt the project was formally made by the Student Affairs office, but was influenced by the feedback received from AMS Assembly, SGPS Council, and in consultation with student and faculty representatives from Commerce, Engineering and Arts and Science.
As of now, there are no plans to continue the project in the future.
Slobodin said he doesn’t think this decision will negatively affect students.
“There wasn’t a need established that this is something that graduate schools now expect, something that employers now expect. So in that case, I don’t think that there’s conclusive evidence that we are disadvantaged,” he said.
Wilfrid Laurier University was the first post-secondary institution in Canada to introduce the co-curricular record in 2004. David McMurray, the University’s vice-president of student affairs, started working on the project in 2000.
“We’ve had probably 20 universities come to visit and pick up on it,” McMurray said.
At Laurier, there are 1,524 unique positions recognized by the program. Having a record is voluntary and students must opt-in.
Approximately 40 to 50 per cent of the Laurier student population is participating this year.
Students access their record online using a specially-designed software. There, they list activities they’ve been involved with and the leadership positions they have held. Club supervisors verify their positions before the record is released. One of the program’s main strengths is its convenience, McMurray said.
“You can start working on your co-curricular at any time. We recommend that students start right away in first year, but some students don’t start until later.”
About 42 per cent of Laurier students open a co-curricular record in first year.
“In orientation, they’re provided with an opportunity to learn about the record and its benefits,” he said. “It’s also a really easy way for students to get to know what kinds of things they can get involved with on campus.”
McMurray said there were some initial concerns regarding the verification process, but that university staff haven’t encountered any difficulties.
“The technology software that we developed to support the record makes the logistics very efficient,” he said.
McMurray said he thinks the co-curricular record gives Laurier graduates a distinct advantage over others during job searches and applications to graduate programs. “From our assessment, it’s become a very treasured document to have during interviews,” he said. “We think it’s a real compliment to a student’s academic degree.”
Wilfrid Laurier’s system lists more than clubs and activities. They’re the only school in Canada to base their record on specific learning outcomes.
This means that acquired outcomes of an activity, such as intellectual growth, enhanced self-awareness and leadership development are listed on the document in addition to the positions held.
“There are 12 learning outcomes that have been designed. Not every position would satisfy the 12 outcomes. But most would relate to four, five or six of them,” he said.
The co-curricular record at Laurier is housed in the school’s Student Leadership Centre. There, paid staff and peer ambassadors help students open, update and review their records.
According to McMurray, there are extra staffing costs for any university looking to introduce the program, though he believes the benefits outweigh the costs. “We really do think recognizing learning and student engagement in and outside the classroom is a very positive thing,” he said. “Our research shows that it leads to closer student relations and preparedness and engagement in the classroom.”
Third-year Laurier student Jordan Epstein has been involved with numerous clubs and organizations on campus. He’s the president of a club, an orientation week leader, a volunteer at the food bank and sits on the student union’s Board of Directors. All of this activity is documented on his co-curricular record.
Epstein said having a co-curricular record gives him a slight advantage over other students when it comes to future prospects.
“It’s like going the extra mile,” he said. “I think the co-curricular record and everything it has on it would put [an applicant] over the edge.” This is the case, he said, because the learning outcomes listed on the document wouldn’t normally be included on a resumé.
Epstein said the main advantage in the record lies in its verification.
“If someone tried to put a club on it that they weren’t a part of, they wouldn’t get it. It proves honesty,” he said.
At Laurier, the president of the university, the vice-president of student affairs, and the presidents of the undergraduate and graduate student associations sign each record personally. The University of Windsor adopted the co-curricular record in 2010. According to the school’s Vice-Provost (Students and International) Clayton Smith, Windsor is rounding out a transition period that’s seen positive feedback.
“We haven’t quite got all the bells and whistles knocked out of it yet, but it’s coming along,” he said.
The introduction of the record at Windsor came as a result of its success at Laurier, Smith said. Activities listed on the University of Windsor’s co-curricular record include residence life positions, student government positions and athletics.
According to Smith, a transition period is necessary for any school introducing this type of record.
“You want to be careful,” he said, “Because you’re playing with students’ lives. You get one, maybe two shots at rolling this thing out.
“I see it as a five-year process. We’re kind of in the middle of it at the moment.”
Smith said he looks forward to expanding the records’ reach across campus.
In the future, he said he sees the potential to include activities that take place off-campus and in the community. This is particularly important for Windsor, Smith said, because it’s a large commuter school.
He identified Queen’s as the perfect institution to adopt a co-curricular record.
“So many people move from home to go to Queen’s. There’s a lot of on-campus life or near-campus life that could be documented in this way,” Smith said.
He said the co-curricular record is a tool to help students tell their stories. “When students go into a job interview for instance, they’re really nervous,” Smith said. “If there was a document there that someone could review, you begin to see, ‘Wow, this person has really got great stuff.’ “That was our reason, it’s to help our students better advocate for themselves.”
Though Queen’s Student Affairs won’t be pursuing co-curricular records, they’re looking into other ways to reflect involvement outside of the classroom.
— With files from Terra-Ann Arnone
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