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Spotlight on the FSCS Student Support Advisors: Providing Compassion, Commitment, and Advocacy during Challenging Times

Tags: Vol. 1, Issue 2, December 2020

The FSCS Student Support Advisors (SSAs) are a group of ten dedicated individuals serving two campuses, Lakeshore and Orangeville. Now more than ever, students need a diverse range of supports, from academic planning to financial assistance and mental health resources. The SSA team has met this challenge with compassion and an unwavering commitment to student success and well-being, often going above and beyond their normal responsibilities to help students through this challenging time.

Following the campus closure in March, the SSAs immediately recognized the unprecedented barriers that students were facing and the urgency for assistance. In response, the team researched and compiled an extensive list of Humber and community supports that students could access. They rapidly shifted to virtual advising, meeting with distressed students continually over the weeks and months to come, providing them with guidance, resources, and most importantly, compassion. Following the horrific events of anti-Black racism and violence this summer, the SSAs demonstrated their commitment to social justice by providing support and resources to our Black students and colleagues.

While the pandemic has kept us working and learning remotely this fall, the SSAs remain a strong source of connection for our students by providing a range of supports centred on proactive advising and outreach. They help students identify their specific barriers to success, then work with them in developing strategies for improvement, like time management and study skills, and connecting them to both internal and external resources. This early intervention strategy is crucial for student retention and success.

In response to the increased need for supports, the team has developed resources and workshops that not only provide students with valuable information, but also teach problem-solving skills and self-sufficiency. In our Time Management workshop, for example, students apply the skills they learn (task prioritization, time blocking, establishing habits, etc.) to create a detailed plan for the semester and stay on track to meet their deadlines. Meanwhile, our registration how-to guides have helped students better prepare for registration, which is a stressful time for most folks. Each semester, the team also runs a two-week Registration Help Lab, which is unique to our faculty and provides students with one-on-one assistance building their schedules and troubleshooting a wide range of registration issues.

One-on-one academic planning has been particularly important in recent months, as many students are experiencing disruptions to their education and need to explore alternative paths to completion. We are also seeing unprecedented levels of financial hardship. The SSAs assist students with finding scholarships, bursaries, and awards, and provide guidance and review of their applications.

And like many of us, students are feeling isolated and struggling with mental health concerns, so we have emphasized self-care as a central theme in our advising approach. We work with students on strategies for stress management and encourage them to access mental health supports when needed. Although the current situation has led to uncertainty and anxiety for our students, it has also presented our team with the opportunity to help them develop the skills and resiliency they need to succeed once they graduate.

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