Student Services

Student Services Team for TRINfocus

Members of the Student Services team: (left to right) Jerome Chang, Leah Cocolicchio, Emily Gilbert, Cam McBurney, Ramata Tarawally.

Spotlight on members of the Trinity Community:  Student Services Team 

Posted February 18, 2021

Before the pandemic hit, you would find the Student Services team – staff from the Office of the Dean of Students and the Registrar’s Office – working in the newly renovated Student Services Centre, which opened in August 2019 as a one-stop shop to centralize student services and strengthen student supports and experience at the College. Seven months after its opening, COVID-19 caused the Centre’s to operate by appointment only, followed by its doors to physically close due to public health restrictions. Since then, the team has been busier than ever providing services, programs and supports virtually to students, who are located around the world. Working remotely, the well-rounded team of dedicated professionals are in constant communications with their each other, with Academic Dons, Community Advisors, student-staff and work-study students, and with colleagues across the College. In addition, with about 200 students living in residence this year, staff from the Dean of Students Office are also working onsite to manage residential operations and to ensure the student experience is as best it can be for residents under COVID-19 restrictions.

Like other offices at Trinity and across U of T, the Student Services team pivoted quickly in the ever changing landscape. With a focus on putting students first, they created new online platforms and developed creative solutions to build a sense a community and to support students: the Office of the Registrar provides all Trinity students with academic, financial, and personal advising; and the Office of the Dean of Students is responsible for oversight of the non-academic student life at the College, with the ultimate goal of fostering the well-being and academic success of Trinity students.

We sat down (virtually) with several members of the Student Services team to get their thoughts on how COVID-19 has changed the way they approach their work and what life is like amid the pandemic. Below are their compiled responses.

  • Jerome Chang, Associate Registrar
  • Leah Cocolicchio, Student Services Assistant
  • Emily Gilbert, Assistant Dean of Students, Residence Life
  • Cam McBurney, Assistant Dean of Students, Student Life
  • Ramata Tarawally, Director, Community Wellness

Trinity College (TC): Back in March 2020, when you heard that the campus was going into lockdown due to COVID-19, what was your team’s top priorities and actions?

Student Services Team (SS):

  • Figuring out how to do our jobs remotely and how to continue to be available to students.
  • Developing plans to help students get home and/or stay in residence if they were unable to get home.
  • Supporting students in difficult financial situations and those impacted by the pandemic.
  • Supporting student mental health.
  • Supporting student governance continuity; and how public health changes will impact events, programs and processes.

TC: In providing student services and supports amid a pandemic, what has been the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your work?

SS:

  • Challenging: wanting to continue to have the personal touch when delivering our work and connecting with students, and wanting to continue to be as available as we were in person.
  • Challenging and rewarding: supporting students to plan and make decision about what’s next was extremely complex. The most difficult thing was the lack of knowledge and the uncertainty for the future. Nevertheless, it was really rewarding to be able to support students as they navigate through tough situations and to see them be resilient and move through the stressful time.
  • Challenging: rethinking how students interact and access information remotely across multiple time zones.
  • Rewarding: despite the challenges, connecting with students to support their experience. I don’t think I’ll forget Orientation 2020 for a long time… the outpouring of student engagement on clubs day was incredible!

TC: Can you talk about how you are using online platforms such as Quercus (U of T’s academic technology toolbox) to connect with both new/incoming and current students?

SS: As a team, we created two Quercus platforms to connect with our community. First, as we were not having a traditional Spring Orientation 2020 program, we needed to find a way to connect with our newest community members – the incoming first-year class – over the summer before they started here. So we created TRIN101 for orientation – it includes resources, videos and events to help students transition to Trinity and U of T. The second platform we created was Trinity Life, which is for the entire registered student community at Trinity. These platforms allow us to provide resources and opportunities for students to engage and interact with each other and the community.

Screen capture of Trinity Life on Quercus

Homepage of Trinity Life on Quercus

Quercus has become a hub for communicating with students in a really meaningful way. All registered students have access to the portal – most of the other platforms we use such as Instagram, aren’t always accessible so this has been really important. We have also extended this access to the TCM and some student governance processes to support their organizational efforts, help them foster community, and meet their goals. The Mental Health Peer Advisors and the Academic Peer Advisors also have a separate peer advisor Quercus class that they use as a central hub for communication and planning.

[TC: You can view some of the TRIN101 videos, along with other videos, including Campus Tour, Sharing Real Experience, on Trinity’s YouTube channel.]

TC: Any virtual programs/activities/events that have been particularly successful?

SS:

  • Orientation was absolutely unique this year; the Orientation coordinators and the team of staff and students who worked on it together did a fantastic job! There was a combination of terrific social online programs and also in-person programs for the students in residence.
  • Many of our work-study students and Peer Advisors/Mental Health Peer Advisors have been doing great online programming throughout the year. Although attendance varies for these virtual events, we have received good feedback. Students are craving connection and many of a low-key social programs allow students to connect, hang out and make friends.
  • The Trinity College “Frost Week” was planned, advertised and facilitated by our Community Advisors, work-study students and Academic Dons. It took place between January 10 and 23, 2021, and consisted of a wide variety of virtual events such as a spa night, a tour of Trinity and St. Hilda’s, and trivia nights. Events were Trinity-wide and offered students the opportunity to socialize in a fun and socially distanced way, to pose questions or concerns they had in an informal setting to student leaders, and to meet new friends. Because it was done virtually, students in quarantine, living off campus, and not yet back on campus were all able to participate. It was a great success and was a positive and interactive way to start the winter term at Trinity.
  • The Community Advisors have been hosting bi-weekly events with their residence areas, and some events, which have been specifically helpful for students, have been virtual dinners and film nights. And the Dons and CAs are creating passive programming bulletin boards around the residences.

Strachan Hall food services by take out onlyTC: For students living in residence, what has their residential experience been like?

SS: We have about 200 students living in residence and everyone is in single rooms this year. We continue to have Academic Dons and Community Advisors (CAs) living in the communities to provide programming and supports to residence students. Our dining halls are open for take-out only at this time as no in-person dining is available due to provincial public health restrictions. We have study space and common rooms open for students on a sign-up basis to ensure social distancing. Our student have been making the best out of a tough situation and they are following the COVID-related rules – wearing masks, physically distancing, etc. for everyone’s health and safety.

TC: You’re working virtually with an even larger team of student-staff and work-study students this year – can you talk about their work to build community at the College?

SS: This year, we’ve taken the opportunity to upgrade the Senior Peer Advisor (Mental Health and Academic) positions to the work-study program, giving the positions more time to build their respective programs. Our student-staff are running event and programs, connecting with students virtually and creating a vital community for students to be a part of. We have also been trying to showcase different students’ day-to-day lives – check out the day-in-the-life videos on Student Services’ Instagram account. Also, having hired student orientation coordinators for Orientation 2020, these student-staff continued to support programming beyond Orientation week and have been vital in reviewing and updating our orientation processes to be more inclusive.

TC: How is the College supporting students who are struggling with mental health and/or financial challenges due to the pandemic?

SS: The past year has been particularly challenging for students. At Trinity, we have a variety of available resources and supports that students are able to access – they can contact Ramata Tarawally and the on-site counsellor, and join Mindful Moments programming and programming from the Mental Health Peer Advisors. Ramata continues to connect with student online for one-on-one meetings, facilitating connections and supports. The Community Advisors are meeting with each residence student individually once per term and are checking in on students in person – physically distanced – who they do not see regularly to be a listening ear and to answer any questions they may have. We hope that this face-to-face contact will help to flag any concerns as they arise. The College continues to provide financial assistance and urgent bursary support to students and is able to take the evolving context into account when assessing need.

TC: What has been the most commonly asked questions you’ve received over the last year? And are there any questions that you wish students would ask more often?

SS: We receive the same questions as we normally do; however, due to the complicated situation related to the pandemic, the additional questions we’re asked are related to online synchronous and asynchronous course offerings, changing COVID restrictions, and ways to just connect with other people.How do I get more involved” is a question we’d love to be asked more.

TC: Any learnings/initiatives that you’ll continue post-pandemic?

SS:

  • The Quercus platform has actually been a great addition with a lot of potential.
  • Accessible online programming for orientation will be a necessity in the future.
  • We imagine we will continue with digital practices as they make information more accessible.

TC: Any advice for students as they finish the 2020-2021 academic year?

SS:

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take good care of yourself, and just keep doing your best. You’re not alone in this. Let us know how we can help!
  • Find ways to engage in self-care every day – read a book, go for a walk, listen to music, etc.
  • Community can be found and made at any time. Don’t think you’ve missed out – there are always more opportunities, and with some time and effort, we can help you find or make them.

Rapid Fire Questions:
  • Jerome Chang (JC)
  • Leah Cocolicchio (LC)
  • Emily Gilbert (EG)
  • Cam McBurney (CM)
  • Ramata Tarawally (RT)

TC: Since the start of the pandemic, what has been…

TC: …the one thing that you look forward to every day/week?

  • JC: The weekend
  • RT: My morning latte
  • EG: Walking in the ravine
  • CM: Home work-out
  • LC: Also the weekend

TC: …the one thing that you dread to do every day/week?

  • JC: Open my email inbox
  • RT: Wash the dishes
  • EG: Do laundry
  • CM: I’m fortunate in that there’s not too much I’m dreading!
  • LC: Putting away folded laundry

TC: …your most surprising moment?

  • JC: How quickly I got used to online meetings
  • RT: When I realized I had not put on a pair of jeans in months
  • EG: How easy it is to learn new online platforms
  • CM: How important intentional connections are for my mental health (call your family!)
  • LC: How much I miss going out for dinner

TC: …your biggest challenge?

  • JC: Remembering what wearing pants is like
  • RT: Not eating croissants every day… they are so good!
  • EG: Having so much screen time
  • CM: Consistent focus
  • LC: Working from home with young kids

TC: …the thing you miss, or miss doing, the most?

  • JC: Visiting colleagues in Trinity and on campus and chatting with students in the Trinity hallways
  • RT: Connecting with students in person
  • EG: Seeing friends in person
  • CM: In person events and conversations
  • LC: Going out to restaurants

TC: …the best way for you to stay/feel connected with others?

  • JC: Text. Text. Text.
  • RT: Talking on the phone and FaceTime
  • EG: Zoom hang outs
  • CM: Online board game night
  • LC: Zoom chats with friends

TC: …your most memorable technology success/fail?

  • JC: Baking cookies online with students
  • EG: Teaching online
  • CM: Online trainings talking to myself in my basement… presenting is hard!

TC: …the one thing you enjoy the most about working remotely?

  • JC: The shorter commute to my laptop in the kitchen
  • RT: Being able to cook and bake bread during my breaks
  • EG: Being able to stretch during breaks
  • CM: The commute!
  • LC: More time with my kids

TC: …the one thing you enjoy the least about working remotely?

  • JC: Not getting to see other people
  • RT: Not being in my office!
  • EG: All the screen time
  • CM: Ease of group meeting communication
  • LC: Having access to my kitchen 24/7

TC: …your new-found hobby or activity?

  • JC: Have really leaned into baking and cooking
  • RT: Baking sourdough bread
  • CM: Home work-outs!
  • LC: Family walks

TC: …the one thing you purchased that you would have never have bought before?

  • JC: Everything from Etsy
  • CM: Weight set

TC: …your (new) favourite food or item to eat/cook/bake?

  • JC: All of it. All. Of. It.
  • CM: Found a few great local restaurants
  • LC: Homemade flour tortillas

TC: …your favourite way to spend time at home?

  • JC: Baking, cooking, online shopping
  • RT: Reading, listening to records, playing games
  • EG: Reading
  • CM: Playing with the kids
  • LC: Hanging with the kids

TC: …the last show/series you binge-watched?

  • JC: Sabrina, Fate, SpyCraft, Surviving Death, Wandavision…
  • RT: Industry
  • EG: High Seas
  • CM: Kim’s Convenience

TC: …the show/series/movie/book you recommend to others?

  • JC: A Little Life & Schitt’s Creek
  • EG: Five Wives by Joan Thomas
  • CM: Godless/The Professional/Hyperion (CM)
  • LC: Schitt’s Creek

TC: …the thing you can now do without?

  • JC: Going outside?
  • CM: The GO train

TC: …the thing you can now not live without?

  • JC: Restaurants…oh and friends & family…I miss it so much!
  • CM: Wifi

TC: …the thing that brings you the most joy/happiness?

  • JC: Friends, family, food
  • CM: Clean kitchen or sleeping children… both really

TC: …the first thing you will do when the pandemic is over?

  • JC: Travel
  • RT: Travel
  • EG: Have a potluck with friends
  • CM: Take my wife out for dinner!

TC: …the best thing you learned that you will continue post-pandemic?

  • JC: How important family & friends are
  • CM: Commitment to time together and physical activity

 


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Student Services and Resources at Trinity: 

List of student services, resources and supports available to you, along with important updates and changes at the college due to the pandemic.

The services listed below work closely with one another to support you. This means you can feel confident approaching any one of them, knowing they can help you or can connect you with the appropriate resources. 

Questions? Contact:

Office of the Dean of Students: deanofstudents@trinity.utoronto.ca
Office of the Registrar: registrar@trinity.utoronto.ca