Volunteers help propel Imagine into third year

by Bruce Mason
Staff writer

The first day of university is a huge step into the unknown and UBC is once again pointing new students in the right direction by cancelling first-year classes.

Instead, on Sept. 7, 4,400 new undergraduates will meet their MUG, attend a pep rally, workshops and faculty information sessions and stay late for a tropical party.

Imagine UBC -- the student-based volunteer orientation and welcome -- is in its third year. The day-long kick-off of the academic year helps students get connected at UBC. It has clearly struck a responsive chord across campus, which shows signs of reverberating long after first impressions have faded into memory.

"The theme this year is `Dream in Color' and the number of people involved at UBC is literally a dream for campuses right across the country," says Janet Cox, first-year co-ordinator -- a full-time position in the Office of Vice-President, Students.

Cox says 550 current students have made a year-long commitment by volunteering as leaders. More than 300 people have been involved in planning and dozens of faculty and staff members are playing an active role. Ninety-five percent of first-year students participated in Imagine UBC last year.

A key to the amazing success is the My Undergraduate Group (MUG) program.

Groups of about 20 new students within the same faculty and two senior student leaders have been formed and will continue to exist well into year 2000, through study groups, meetings for coffee, sushi, intramurals and other events.

"Perhaps the most impressive and enviable number is the 223 MUGs now formed at UBC -- that's a ten-fold increase from the pilot project last year," says Cox.

New this year is Imagine Lite, a program designed in response to requests from students who are transferring to UBC after first year. About 1,500 transfer students have been invited to the special program.

A board of dedicated students works to set the Imagine UBC and MUGs stage by brainstorming and building events and activities that promote student involvement and first-year success at the university.

A steering committee comprising students, staff, faculty and ad hoc appointees provides advice and support to the Imagine team. It consists of Cox, faculty co-chair, Ric Spratley, acting associate vice-president, Research, student co-chair/event manager, Heather Kerr and two student co-ordinators, Amit Taneja and Tlell Elviss.

"Although our motto is `Dream in Color,' don't worry, the T-shirt will still say `UBC Kicks Ass!'" Kerr, Taneja and Elviss say.

The Web site, www.student-services.ubc.ca/imagine_ubc/ is easily accessed through the university's home page at www.ubc.ca.

Imagine UBC at a glance

9 a.m.: Students gather along Main Mall for first MUG meeting.

10:30 a.m.: Pep Rally, War Memorial Gym features faculty cheer competition and welcome speeches from Barry McBride, vice-president, Academic and Provost, Ryan Marshall, president, AMS Society, Brian Sullivan, vice-president, Students, and Linda Thorstad, president, UBC Alumni Association.

11:30 a.m.: Students attend Meet Your Dean or Director sessions, or attend workshops designed to demystify professors for students, foster communication between faculty and students and answer first-year questions.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch for students in each of the university's faculties.

2:30 p.m.: Workshops and meeting sessions continue.

3:30 p.m.: The Main Event, Main Library Plaza -- buskers, food, displays, and prizes.