"I am UBC," say students

First-year orientation lasts the whole year through

by Bruce Mason staff writer

"I am UBC. I am not a number or an apathetic bore. I don't go to school on a hill, or on an island, or in Ontario."

Those first lines of a new UBC rant were heard loud and clear Sept. 5, Imagine UBC day, as the enthusiastic fourth annual welcome of 4,200 first-year students took B.C.'s largest university by storm.

"A day to help make new students feel at home and get involved has exploded into Canada's largest program, made possible by hundreds of students, staff and faculty throughout the academic year," says Janet Teasdale, UBC first-year co-ordinator, who works in the Office of Vice-President, Students.

A steering committee comprising students, staff, faculty and ad hoc appointees provided advice and support to a team of five at the top of the massive Imagine UBC organizational chart: student co-chair Tlell Elviss; student event co-ordinators, Jane Chapco and Janela Jovellano; faculty co-chair Ric Spratley, acting associate vice-president, Research; and Teasdale. Elviss, a fourth-year Biology student who participated in the first Imagine , says nearly 100 per cent of first-year students take part. As of this year, the majority of undergraduates have participated in the program. Evidence of the program's energy and impact is the fact that 750 students volunteered last January to make a 12-month-long commitment. From that group, 480 leaders were chosen and trained in March.

Imagine is organized around My Undergraduate Groups (MUGs) which comprise 16 new students, two senior student leaders and, for the first time, a faculty mentor.

Members share at least one class or lab and MUGs continue through meetings, e-mails, study groups, coffee, sushi, intramurals and other events, linking leaders with the students in their MUG, and through continuing interaction with the faculty mentor.

Chapco, a fourth-year student in Canadian Studies, says organizers are grateful for growing faculty support. Jovellano, a third-year English and Psychology student, adds that the Main Event and Pep Rally remain very popular. First-year classes were cancelled and the day started at 8:30 a.m. with the first meeting of 240 MUGs.

A pep rally featured UBC President Martha Piper, Alma Mater Society President Maryannn Adamec and Jane and Joe UBC, who delivered the UBC Rant and raised the roof of War Memorial Gymnasium. The Main Event, with 100 interactive booths, showcased student life and included a stage with an Imagine UBC finale by the rock band Edwin at 6 p.m.

For Spratley involvement is based on a deep conviction that universities are all about students. "I was an undergraduate here in the 50s and it was a tough adjustment," he recalls.

"I'm really pleased to be associated with something that helps ease the way from high school into UBC. I'm also dazzled by the quality of the student leaders who volunteer their time and energy to make this happen." For more information on Imagine UBC, visit the Web site www.students.ubc.ca/imagine or call 604-822-8698.