Engaging and Supporting students

This resource page is intended to provide resources and suggestions to help you engage incoming and returning students in your department.


Student Engagement Image

Engaging New and Returning Students

Graduate students tend to most strongly identify with their departments at McGill and, as such, departments have traditionally taken a significant role in ensuring student engagement in a variety of ways, including by providing department specific events, orientation and onboarding for incoming students, as well as support for peer to peer networks.

Given the dramatic shift on how these kinds of activities will need to be provided this academic year, there is a greater need than ever to share resources, best practices, and provide mutual support so that we can all help to ensure that our graduate students have the best possible experience this fall.

Resources and Recommendations

Promoting student engagement is a community wide effort at McGill. GPS has been actively engaging with incoming and returning students through regular communications, our FAQ, and the interactive sessions with Dean Nalbantoglu. Campus Life & Engagement (CL&E), along with other Student Services, as well as Teaching and Learning Services (TLS), are providing a wealth of offerings and resources to welcome new students to McGill and provide returning students with support forming peer networks. 

Departments can leverage and complement the work being done by university-wide units by ensuring that your students are aware of these options and by creating department specific activities or resources that take advantage of existing content and offerings.

  1. Events & Orientation
    • Many departments have a long tradition of organizing special events and a department specific orientation session. This year it will be more important than ever to provide students with a way to connect with your department virtually. Hosting department specific events is an excellent way to help your students connect with one another as well as get to know the staff and faculty in your department. 
    • Event Ideas
      • Coffee hour with Faculty members: Roundtable introductions to the professors and their research in your department. If your department is very large, this could even be a series.
      • Mini talks and/or overview of research areas in your department or invited guest speakers.
      • Information on degree expectations (milestones and coursework)
      • Invite a guest speaker from one of the many support services available to graduate students (see below for examples) to provide a tailored workshop or seminar for your students. 
      • Partner with your department PGSA (click here to view a list of graduate associations) to offer social events (a great way to help your incoming students get connected with their peers) and/or peer led sessions on topics such as advice for first years, student life at McGill, or discussion groups. See below for additional information on supporting Peer Networks.
    • Pre-Arrival & Orientation
      • Every year CL&E organizes a series of pre-arrival webinars to familiarize students who are not yet on campus with McGill services and the PGSS. You can find a list of current offerings here and consider helping CL&E to promote this series.
      • You can also highlight content from the CL&E Newsletters for incoming students
      • Encourage students to join the official Facebook Group for New Graduate Students (CL&E monitors, moderates and add students to group. Only verified grad students can join.) Find out if there is a student run Facebook page for your department and encourage your students to join.
      • ISS also hosts an excellent series of webinars for new international students, you can view their offerings here.
    • Here are some suggestions to help you make your virtual events a success:
      • Refer to the Virtual Engagement Strategies and TLS’ webpage on zoom for instructors (lots of great tips and instructions for all zoom users!).
      • Designate someone in your department to be the main moderator -someone who can introduce speakers, facilitate discussions and questions that arise, ask students to introduce themselves, and keep the group energy dynamic.
      • To save time organizing other guest speakers, check to see if there are short videos from service units that you could share with your students instead (see below).
  2. Student Support and Wellbeing
  3. Highlighting Resources & Answering Questions

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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