Jennifer Dong felt alone during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but SAF2YEx has helped her connect with her peers.
“SAF (School of Accounting and Finance) has given me the opportunity to connect with my fellow peers through crews. Crews have been beneficial for me because I can get help from my peers when needed. During this pandemic, it’s so easy to feel isolated, but the crew has helped me feel at ease and more comfortable ,learning remotely,”Jennifer, the first-year Accounting and Financial Management student said.
The School of Accounting and Finance at University of Waterloo developed the student engagement program, SAF2YEx, two years ago to connect students. SAF calls it the 2 Year Experience.
Lynn Graham, the Community Engagement Coach for SAF, said SAF2YEx is a co/extra-curricular activity that brings SAF students together.
“Every member of the AFM, Math/CPA, and Science BioTech/CPA programs in years 1 and 2 are formed into a Crew of between four and six students,” Graham said.
The Crews are mentored by an upper-year student called Peer Support Learning Champions (PSLC). Graham said the crew meetings, occurring between three and five times per term, are focused on the four experience areas of Academics, Co-op/Career, Community, and Health.
The program aims to achieve different outcomes for each term of study in the first two years of university. The 1A term goals include community building within SAF and the Waterloo community. The 1B goals focus on building a foundation of collaboration and team building, including conflict resolution and giving and receiving feedback from team members in preparation for professional networking.
Starting in second year, the 2A term goals are based on preparing students for co-op by introducing them to personal branding, practical application, and interview strategies. The final term covered by SAF2YEx, 2B, focuses on preparing students to be “choice ready” for course selection and upper-year co-op terms while planning for engagement in the upper-years to continue achieving the program’s learning outcomes and further develop professional interest. Due to the pandemic, students do not have the chance to meet others in a more traditional setting.
Anureet Saini, a first-year Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) student, said she missed the social aspect of in-person classes and the university community.
“The SAF2YEx program really helped me with the transition virtually to university. It connected me with like-minded individuals and provided me with a supportive community. I really enjoy attending the events that are hosted, as well as engaging with our crews,” she said.
The student engagement program was developed over the last four years and is now branded as the SAF2YEx. Each year the program has changed to suit the students’ needs better, Graham said.
PSLCcan facilitate meetings between the seven crews they mentor each year, so students have the opportunity to meet fellow students and network with upper-year students.
Rimal Raul, a first-year AFMstudent, said outside of this program, she would not have had the chance to meet others due to the virtual learning environment.
“Having crews has helped me integrate with online learning because I have someone to count on or relate to, who I can ask if I’m not sure what’s going on. This makes the situation more manageable,” Raul said.