President's Report 2006 | Teaching

Helping first-year Memorial students overcome school fears

Students starting first-year university are often apprehensive about what will be expected of them. A Memorial University pilot project was launched to help alleviate those fears by introducing new students to some basic research and writing skills, and giving them a sneak preview of what their professors will expect.

"Students are understandably fearful about making the transition to university, and that can hamper them," said librarian Jan Guise, one of the creators of a new program called SPARC (Summer Program in Academic Research & Communication). "Every fall we see new students who look bewildered and intimidated walking around our huge library." Genevieve Warren was an incoming first-year student in St. John's who registered for SPARC. "I consider myself to be a good student, but I'd rather know I'm prepared," she said. "I just want a little more comfort with what to expect."

During the four-day program, participants like Ms. Warren researched and completed projects of their own choice. They also honed their writing skills, and had two private sessions with a Writing Centre tutor

"The idea is to give them some guided, hands-on experience to help them make the transition from high school to university-level research and writing," Ms. Guise said. "The other benefit, of course, is that this program will introduce a student to some peers. Familiar faces always help."