Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Welcome Days: StFX orientation different this year, but welcome remains warm for 951 first year students

September 10th, 2020
Members of O-Crew greet a first year student

As new students filed into the Keating Centre on Sept. 10th, the first of two Welcome Days at StFX for 951 first year students, the members of the Class of 2024 were immediately welcomed by StFX staff members with a friendly greeting, conversation, and directions on the day.

While the process for welcoming new and returning students this year looks much different than how StFX traditionally kicks off the school year, what remains constant is the warmth of the welcome.  

“Despite things being quite different this year, our students will be greeted with the same X spirit, care and excitement that is the hallmark of StFX Welcome and Orientation Days,” says Elizabeth Yeo, Vice President Students. 

StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin greeted all incoming students

"One of the best moments of the last few weeks was welcoming our first students back to campus who were heading into self-isolation. After months of planning for their arrival it was great to see the university move into operational mode. The optimism, expectation, and excitement of students returning to campus injected a lot of positive energy into the institution," says StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin, who with his wife Linda, were on hand to greet all students on their arrival at Welcome Day.

"We are asking our students to do the right thing by first managing themselves. Mask wearing, daily self-checks on health, hand washing, social distancing are all ways for students to take control at a personal level and in so doing so their actions are amplified to support the overall health of the community," he says. "We are mindful that this semester will be like no other that our students have experienced. But different does not mean worse. Faculty and staff have worked incredibly hard to build a framework of academic and social experiences that will continue to distinguish StFX from the other institutions. The university has prepared all aspects of its operations to build an excellent and memorable experience for students."

WELL ORGANIZED

Toronto, ON mother and daughter Karen McCormick, a 1986 StFX graduate, and Katie Braid, starting her first year in human kinetics, say Welcome Day was a success.

“It was very energetic, with (the student orientation crew) O-Crew, and it was very safe, with distancing and everyone wearing masks. People were respecting boundaries. It was well organized, with all the extra measures, and lots of people were stopping to talk and say hello,” says Ms. Braid. 

The first year human kinetics student says she wanted to come to StFX as her mother and other family members are graduates of the university and they always speak well of the school. She also wanted to experience the atmosphere. “The school spirit is something I was interested in being part of.” 

Ms. McCormick says the communication from StFX prior to coming to Welcome Day was clear and she and Katie felt confident with the information received. “I’m very pleased and proud she is coming here,” she says.  

Moving into residence

It was a sentiment echoed by Deniene Beales, from the Class of 1993, and Peter Salovitch of New Jersey, whose daughter Katia Beales-Salovitch, is a first year student in the BBA program, majoring in international business with a minor in political science. 

“Every parent can attest to the stress and worry about sending your child off to university but add COVID and international travel to the mix and you know you are about to embark on a journey unlike all others! Our experience began with the most thoughtful and responsive group of administrators that any parents would have been privileged to work with,” Ms. Beales says. 

“Elizabeth Yeo, VP of Students, Larissa Strong, Director of Internationalization, and Sandy MacIntosh, Manager of Residence, partnered with us from the moment of acceptance until Katia arrived on campus at 3 a.m. She was welcomed with a meal and instructions for the start of quarantine. To say that X went above and beyond our expectations is an understatement. As a proud alumna and parent, we are appreciative of the planning that has gone into ensuring our daughter is safe and has the best university experience possible.”  

VERY APPRECIATIVE 

Katia says she is so appreciative to be able to have an in-person university experience.

“That I believe is a testament to all the hard work and planning the administration has done on our behalf.

“My mom is from Newfoundland and an alumna of StFX and I grew up hearing all about the amazing experiences she had at X. My very first campus tour happened to be at StFX,” she says. “I absolutely fell in love with the campus and was very impressed with the Gerald Schwartz Business School. I did lots of research on other schools and toured their campuses, but nothing compared to X. From the beautiful grounds to the state-of-the-art classrooms and the amazing dorms, it just felt like home.”

Completing 14 days of quarantine wasn’t exactly how she expected her university experience to begin, she says, but it went okay. “Staying in a dorm room, by yourself, for 14 days in a new country without family was tough, but StFX staff did an amazing job under very unique circumstances. They brought me three healthy meals every day, we had the opportunity to go outside for one hour of the day, which allowed me to meet new friends and if I needed anything the Residence Life staff was there to help. Everyone was focused on keeping the campus COVID-free and everyone played a part in making that happen.”

She says the new protocols put in place have allowed students and staff to return to StFX safely. “From the masks, hand sanitizer stations, to designated seats ensuring social distancing while in class, StFX has thought of everything. While no one likes to wear the masks and we are all eager to return to a normal life, I think we can all agree we have to be vigilant in our commitment to keeping both X and the greater Antigonish community safe.” 

Isaac Faubert of Ottawa, ON, who is going into his first year, says he had an amazing day on Welcome Day. He had completed his 14-day isolation off-campus. He says he chose StFX as his older brother had attended and mentioned all the great things about the university. 

“I was very excited to move in and it was easily accessible to my parents and I. It was great with the staggered times, so it was very easy to move in,” he says. “The new protocols were amazing and I felt very safe the whole time. It was an amazing job from StFX.”

Welcome Days

Welcome Day looked a little different than in years past. New this year is the extension of Welcome Day from one day to two days.

On September 10th and 11th, incoming students on and off campus arrive at the Keating Centre at specified times to check-in, get their green wristband, which signifies they completed 14 days of isolation in Atlantic Canada or that they never left Atlantic Canada, personally meet StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin, check-in with the Registrar’s Office, get their student ID, and check-in to residence, if applicable. They can pick up previously purchased orientation kits sold by the Students’ Union and take some pictures in the iconic StFX photo booth. 

Pink-shirted members of O-Crew are there to greet students and help direct people, bringing their energy in a masked and physically distanced way. 

Campus tours are offered, and in the evenings, residence leaders have planned activities with their communities. 

Family information sessions, live Q&A sessions and welcomes from Dr. Hakin and Students’ Union president Sarah Elliot were recorded and circulated to students and families.

On September 12th and 13th, returning students will move into residence, checking in at the Keating Centre in a similar way. 

September 12th is the official kick-off of Orientation. 



“Orientation events are much different this year,” Ms. Yeo says. “The Student Orientation Committee, which is a collaborative committee of Student Life and the Students’ Union, recognized that incoming students have had a very different end to high school than they were expecting and may have more anxiety about their readiness for postsecondary than we normally see. How we facilitate orientation and transition support must take into account the unique needs of this cohort. To that end, we have designed a program that spans over several weeks and starts with the isolation period. Campus services and supports are more actively involved in program delivery throughout the first several weeks. The emphasis on proactive student outreach will connect students with supports early.”

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