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Calling all CEGEPs
| The welcome mat is being rolled out for CEGEP students at McGill University this weekend. In an effort to attract more local post-secondary students, McGill will be holding its first pre-registration Open House exclusively geared to CEGEP students at its downtown campus on Feb.13.
While the University has held various public tours in the past, notably its McGill Days for newly enrolled students, Sunday's day-long Open House is different because many of the students visiting the University will not yet have registered. The application deadline for the fall semester at Quebec universities is March 1 and McGill officials hope that opening the University's doors will entice a bigger crop of students to mail their applications to 805 Sherbrooke St. W. next month.
Open House coordinator Wendy Hough-Euamie says this weekend's tour will be a better recruiting tool than McGill Days, too. "The problem with McGill Days was that we were already preaching to the converted," she says, adding McGill Days were typically attended by about 600 students. "If we can double that amount of visitors, we'll be very happy."
Robin Geller, director of the Admissions, Recruitment and Registrar's Office, says holding an Open House will give students a first-hand occasion to see what the University is all about.
"Research has shown that once students have been on campus, and seen the physical surroundings, they can witness what their experience at a [school] will be like," Geller says, thus helping recruitment. "The Open House will give us the opportunity to highlight McGill's strengths to as wide an audience as possible."
Most faculties will be taking part in the Open House with representatives on hand to talk about admissions criteria and job possibilities in their respective fields.
But the idea is also to have some fun. Macdonald Campus's Avian Science and Conservation Centre will greet visitors with one of their birds of prey. Anthropology professor Michael Bisson, a recent teaching award winner, will tackle the history of human communication in a talk titled, "Stone chips to computer chips, cave paintings to DVDs."
Law students representing McGill in the Jessup International Moot Competition will discuss the legal issues surrounding bioethics. Electrical and computer engineering professor Jeremy Cooperstock will discuss his hi-tech "classroom of the future." Music students will strut their stuff in jazz concerts and organ recitals. And engineering students will display some of their wares, including their solar car and Formula 1 racing car.
To attract students to campus, McGill is spending about $17,000 in Open House advertising in newspapers like La Presse, The Gazette and Voir and on radio stations like CKOI and Cité Rock Détente. "It's a big, in-your-face media blitz," says Hough-Euamie, noting McGill couldn't rely on word-of-mouth to get students to drop by.
"With this Open House, we want to make sure we get the best from our home market," she adds, "and let them know that by coming to McGill they'll be walking away with a diploma from an institution that's world-renowned."
Furthermore, McGill wants to make sure francophone students, in particular, receive that message loud and clear; hence the targeting of French media outlets and busing in of a group of francophones from Quebec City.
Vice-Principal (Academic) Luc Vinet says the University's current count of French students makes up between 20 and 22 per cent of the student body. "We would like that to rise to 25 per cent," he says.
With the number of anglophone students in Quebec declining every year, Vinet says, enrolling more francophone students at McGill is critical. "To maintain our overall proportion of Quebec students," he says, "we absolutely need to address the francophone pool of students.
"A lot of good francophone students don't necessarily think about McGill as an option when applying to universities," he continues, explaining that recruiting more French students isn't just good business; the presence of francophone students helps McGill remain a multicultural, diversified community.
As a public institution, he stresses, it's paramount for the University that francophone students reap the perks of a McGill degree, too. "As one of the best universities in Canada," he says, "we want francophones, as much as anglophones, to benefit from a McGill education."
Plus, going to McGill allows francophones to learn a second language. "McGill is a great place to practice and perfect their English skills," Vinet says, explaining that fluency in English is an asset when looking for employment after university.
He acknowledges, however, that unilingual francophones can encounter problems when studying in English. That's why McGill created the new position of first-year assistant for francophone students.
Working in the first-year coordinator's office, the new first-year assistant, Cathy Giulietti will serve as a liaison to francophone students. "Our office will be a place where francophones can obtain help on anything academic or social," she says, adding she will launch note-taking, study-skills and essay-writing workshops to optimize the chances of French students succeeding at McGill.
The aim of Giulietti's job, Vinet says, will be to facilitate the McGill experience for francophones. "It's a responsibility we have," he says, "because if we're attracting people here, we have to ensure they can get over hurdles. We don't want to wait and have them not do well or fail."
Leslie Copeland, first-year coordinator, says francophone students visiting during Open House will be informed about Giulietti's position. "So that they know they have a resource here to sort through the McGill academic maze," she says.
Come fall, Copeland and Giulietti will also be calling new students as part of a new outreach program. "To give McGill a bit of a personal touch," Copeland says, "and remind students about this resource."
Giulietti also plans to launch a francophone student network to help these students build new social circles, a crucial part of student life, and an element francophones sometimes lack when leaving their friends behind to attend an English university. "The network will allow them an opportunity to come together with people who are living similar experiences," she says.
With everything now in place, all McGill can do is hope for a big batch of fresh faces to show up on Sunday, says Hough-Euamie. "I think it's going to be a really good day."