Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Successful Interchange conference brings high school counsellors, post-secondary enrollment professionals from across Canada to StFX

June 5th, 2017
Interchange conference delegates

High school counsellors and post-secondary enrollment professionals from across Canada gathered at StFX May 24-26 for the 2017 Interchange Conference, an annual event hosted by the Atlantic Association of Registrars and Admissions Officers (AARAO).

The three-day conference brought together nearly 150 participants from across Atlantic Canada, and, for the first time in conference history, representatives from outside the Atlantic region, with delegates attending from coast to coast.  

“The annual conference is the leading post-secondary conference in Atlantic Canada and we were thrilled to have St. Francis Xavier University host this year,” says AARAO president Jennifer Howell, Enrolment Management Coordinator, Marine Institute of Memorial University.

“The StFX Interchange Planning Committee did an exceptional job organizing the conference; the first-class accommodations, the diverse sessions in the daytime, the beautiful celebrations in the evenings – everything was outstanding! The conference saw one of its highest registration rates ever, with participants joining us from all over Canada and the U.S. The AARAO executive would like to extend their congratulations once again to the StFX Interchange Planning Committee on the tremendous success of the conference.”

Conference participant Jason Manderson, Career Practitioner at St. Anne's, Bishop Carroll and St. Gabriel schools in Calgary, AB, first toured StFX campus five years ago to be able to tell students why the university could be right for them. “Five years later, when back to StFX, the reasons are crystal clear, from welcoming you with a smile and treating you as a family member they haven’t seen in while, to being treated with luxurious dorm rooms, fine dining and fantastic people providing information and tours. The reason I tell students to go to StFX is simple. You will feel part of something.”

Mark Kolanko, StFX Manager of Recruitment and one of the conference organizers, says the event was a terrific success. This year’s theme was ‘Change,’ and Mr. Kolanko says the conference provided robust PD opportunity tackling everything from student transition from high school to university to enrollment planning to mental health. StFX President Dr. Kent MacDonald provided opening remarks.

Delegates had much opportunity to engage in conversation about the change taking place in the educational landscape, at institutions, and in communities, conversations all designed to enrich student support.

Mr. Kolanko says while the conference focused on student support and enrollment, delegates also enjoyed an introduction to the culture and community of StFX and Antigonish.

Welcome bags, which included local products from businesses such as Steinhart Distillery and Peace by Chocolate, and performances from local Highland and First Nations dancers and a play by local Syrian high school student Majd Al Zhouri, showcased the community, while the conference itself featured nods to StFX’s deep commitment to social change and giving back.

Rather than presenting a gift to speakers, donations were made in their name to the local L’Arche community, yielding over $500. As well, during nutrition breaks, conference delegates assembled over 800 toiletry kits, in bags donated by Pharmasave, for four not-for-profit organizations AARAO identified across Atlantic Canada.

Mr. Kolanko was also honoured during the conference, receiving the AARAO Leadership and Service Award, presented to an AARAO member who has demonstrated significant leadership in the post-secondary environment

“We are so fortunate to have had Mark as a part of the AARAO executive for so long and I can honestly say that the association would not be where it is today without the hard work and dedication that Mark has put into it over the years,” Ms. Howell says

Angela Williams from the Anglophone East School District – New Brunswick received the Guidance Counsellor Educational Excellence Award.

Mr. Kolanko thanked and praised members of the Interchange planning committee, members of StFX’s Admissions and Recruitment staff, noting how “phenomenal the group was in planning and hosting such an incredible PD opportunity for educators not just in Atlantic Canada but across the country. They were incredible.”

Members of the planning committee included Kate MacDonald, Mariah MacKeigan, Erin Draper, Matt Dolansky, Lauren Agnew, Erica Moore, Stephanie Brennan, Donald Rasmussen, Brittany Wood, Keegan MacNeill, Justin Fox and Mark Kolanko. 

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