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Student Success Centre: 2020–2021 in Review

macmaster in the spring

Dear McMaster community,

We don’t need to tell you that the 2020–2021 academic year was full of surprises — surprise challenges to overcome, problems to solve and milestones to commemorate. What wasn’t surprising, however, was the resilience demonstrated by all McMaster students, staff, faculty and alumni.

We’re proud to belong to such a strong community, and we want to share our congratulations. While we spent most of the year apart physically, we remained connected by our core values.

This year at the SSC, we remained positive, focused on solutions instead of problems and worked creatively to expand our services for all students and alumni to thrive and succeed.

This report is our way of reflecting and celebrating all the successes and milestones from the past year. Read through to find out how we supported students and alumni and gave back to the larger McMaster community.

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Collaborative in our approach

Genuine in our interactions

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Engaging and approachable

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Continuous learners

Respectful of individuality and diversity

Committed to the student experience

Our commitment

University journeys are unique to every student, and every individual deserves the full access necessary to maximize their university experience. However, we recognize that barriers still exist. Our commitment to removing these barriers includes, but is not limited to:

  • Supporting the inclusive and equitable hiring of McMaster students and alumni through Career Access Professional Services (CAPS)
  • Amplifying campus equity, diversity and inclusion work through social media campaigns, community partnerships and staff events
  • Allocating professional development time on Friday afternoons for staff to research and discuss topics related to equity, diversity and inclusion and ways to create a more welcoming McMaster community

Redeveloped SSC website launches with 200+ student stories, new ways to access support (June 2020)

“Creating a powerful digital first impression to students that says, ‘we get you and we are here for you,’ was a primary objective with our new website,” says Gina Robinson, assistant dean of Student Affairs and director of the Student Success Centre. “It was about putting our best self forward and creating that genuine virtual connection with every student, so we are ready for when we return to campus.”

Read the story, Student Success Centre launches new website.

The SSC turns 10 (August 2020)

“Ten years ago, our goal was to establish a place where all students go for all their student service needs with a single director. I’m pleased that under the leadership of Gina Robinson, 10 years later, our goals were superseded. The SSC today has become the go-to place for an expanded host of student services for both domestic and international students alike. I couldn’t be more proud,” says Dr. Philip Wood, associate vice president (AVP), Student Affairs, when the SSC was founded.

Read the story, Reflecting on the past, moving forward: Celebrating 10 years at the Student Success Centre.

View the videos: 10 Years of SSC Stories.

@MacSSC grows to 10,000 followers on Instagram (February 2021)

Wow, 10,000 followers! We love what we do and we are thankful that each and every one of you has chosen to join our community on this platform. You are more than a follower number.

View the celebratory Instagram post.

Annual Mac’s Money Centre tax program moves online, completes 350+ returns (March, April 2021)

With more than 60 volunteer members, the Tax Squad provides consultation services for students and community members to complete their taxes and capture all the credits and benefits they deserve.

For Simon Pereira, Tax Squad volunteer and third-year Commerce Program student, “this community involvement is incredibly rewarding. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I am giving back to a community that I have fallen in love with,” says Pereira. “If I can help one resident of Hamilton alleviate some stress during these difficult times, I know it was worth the time and energy.”

Read the story, McMaster students provide campus and community with free, virtual tax services.

SSC director Gina Robinson retires after 22 years at McMaster (May 2021)

“I am so honoured to be a Mac alum and now a Mac retiree. I am truly grateful for all the opportunities I have had, my mentors, my entire family — and for the last 22 years spent with my wonderful colleagues and family at the SSC. We have supported one another through life’s personal challenges and celebrated many of life’s milestones and work successes. We accomplished such great things working together as a team.”

By the numbers

8,600+ page views for Online Learning Support
7,900+ combined page views for Academic Skills Prep
3,500+first-year student attendees

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light bulb iconNew initiatives

Virtual study sessions

Offered for general and course-specific studying support

Online Learning Support web page

Developed in collaboration with University Technology Services (UTS) and the McMaster University Library

The Writing Centre expansion

Including new support for graduate students

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person iconStudent voice

“The most useful resource I have found so far at McMaster!”

— The Writing Centre participant

“[My coach] gave me much needed support and validation with my academic skills this COVID-19 semester.”

— Academic coaching participant

“My overall experience with the transfer student program was greatly rewarding. The program gave me a sense of belonging … which gave me the support I needed to excel in my studies this year. The charisma of those who helped run the program really made me feel as though I was genuinely important to the university.”

— Transfer student program participant

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Campus and community partnerships

Research and Writing Week

A workshop series and campaign presented in partnership with the McMaster University Library

Thesis Thursdays

Virtual sessions for graduate students hosted in collaboration with Student Wellness Centre (SWC) volunteers

#DonutCheat contest and social media campaign

For International Day Against Contract Cheating, a collaboration with the Office of Academic Integrity

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Did you know?

We launched the Academic Skills Animated Series with five episodes (3,500+ combined views) on topics ranging from note-taking to online learning.

Writing workshops were the most in-demand session type.

The weekly contests for the Academic Skills Prep Series received 200+ submissions a week on average.

#ExamCoffeeNeeded, a digital campaign, raised student morale during exam season, providing 339 digital Starbucks gift cards.

We provide Career Access Professional Services (CAPS) for students and alumni who identify as a member of an equity-deserving group or have barriers to employment. The CAPS team provides individualized support to assist with all aspects of career development, including exploration, preparation and the building of skills and confidence.

By the numbers

  • 4,679 employment and volunteer opportunities posted on OSCARplus
  • 2,542 career counselling appointments attended by undergraduate students
  • 680 new employer and community partners added to the OSCARplus employment postings portal
  • 466 one-on-one advising appointments offered as part of Career Access Professional Services (CAPS)
  • 92 events and workshops hosted in collaboration with campus or community partners
4,679 employment and volunteer opportunities
2,542 career counselling appointments
680new employer and community partners

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light bulb iconNew initiatives

Weekly virtual drop-in advising Learn More

For anything career-related, offered Tuesday–Thursday, 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Culture of Inclusion Learn More

A campaign led by Career Access for Professional Services (CAPS) to support inclusive employment and celebrate diversity in employment through resource sharing, webinars and meaningful conversations

Start Your Own Side Hustle

An initiative helping students discover their passion and skills through entrepreneurial opportunities, including sessions and resources on creating, marketing and growing business ideas

Career Planning Notebook Learn More

A customizable digital resource developed to offer expert advice, student perspectives and tools for career planning during university and beyond

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person iconStudent voice

“Booking an appointment with CAPS was one of the best decisions I have made for my career … The experience offered me a personalized support system for whatever my needs were, whether that was job hunting tasks like resume building or even just going over all the things I needed to do for my classes and making a plan to get them done. And sometimes, it was just nice to talk to someone and share about my day.”

— CAPS participant

“Thank you so much for building this course and making it available to students for free. I found this course really helpful, and it definitely helped me get to know myself better.”

— Career Planning Essentials participant

“As a senior student planning on entering the workforce after graduation, this career trek program enhanced the necessary skills important in developing my professional portfolio. It provided me with the opportunity to improve and learn various skills. It also allowed me to understand how to not only communicate challenges in a timely way but also how to provide solutions to these challenges.”

— Career Trek participant

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Campus and community partnerships

The Career Ready Fund

A partnership with McMaster Engineering Co-op and Career Services providing support for automotive and advanced manufacturing employers to hire equity-deserving students, through funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

New Grad Month

A partnership with the McMaster Alumni Association providing a career conference and job search webinars for graduating students


A creative platform enabling students to earn money for their ideas and develop critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills while contributing to companies like Randstad, Lotus STEMM and Geotab

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Did you know?

We introduced students to Big Interview, a comprehensive interview practice tool to help students develop job interview skills based on their situation and industry of interest.

Student Success Centre peer leaders interviewed their peers about career experiences and skills through the Career-Ready Conversations series of videos and articles.

Our Transform Your Resume with Word video was the most popular topic of the Digital Skills Series, developed in collaboration with the Lyons New Media Centre.

International students are a valued part of our community. International Student Services (ISS) is a division of the Student Success Centre that provides enhanced services and programs for international undergraduate, graduate, visiting and exchange students at McMaster.

By the numbers

  • 165 funding opportunities for students to participate in global learning
  • 938 one-on-one meetings attended by international students
  • 96 events offered specifically for international students
  • 379 total participants in the International Student Buddy Program
165 global learning funding opportunities
379 Buddy Program participants
938one-on-one international student meetings

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light bulb iconNew initiatives

Building Blocks to Global Engagement

A collaborative project funded by the Global Mobility Innovation Fund from Universities Canada, developed in partnership with the Office of International Affairs and the Faculty of Social Sciences

International Education Week global storytelling initiatives Learn More

Including the Write and Tell Your Story workshop series with local author Ann Bokma and a writing contest focused on stories with global perspectives

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person iconStudent voice

“The Virtual Intern Global Experience with Think Pacific was such an eye-opening beacon of light … Having an opportunity to put my learned skills to the test in an environment where I could see my work being reflected made me grateful and confirmed my passion for environmental policy and sustainable management work.”

— Virtual global internship participant

“What I found most fulfilling was being able to talk with my fellow U21 students … Though the students in my breakout room were shy at first, we quickly broke the ice and had such profound cross-cultural discussions about global issues. I met students from Australian, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Chilean, Peruvian, and American universities!”

— McMaster U21 Global Citizenship participant

“I made one of my closest friends through [the International Student Buddy Program], at a Buddy event. She actually wasn’t even my assigned buddy, we met at an ISS Buddy Program event that I was volunteering to help out with. It was evening in Canada, and past midnight in South Africa but still somehow our paths crossed on Zoom! Since then, we’ve had a sleepover, movie night, and countless virtual game nights together.”

— Buddy Program participant

“I want to thank [the McMaster Exchange Program] for the experience at McMaster. Even though the semester was online, I had a great time at the university and met amazing people during my time.”

— Virtual exchange participant (incoming)

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Campus and community partnerships

Fiji virtual internships

Offered in partnership with Think Pacific, which included remote work opportunities for students in their field to contribute to Fijian government departments, charities, social enterprises and start-ups

Be the Change

A social media campaign offered during International Education Week to raise awareness and contribute to the UN75 (75th Anniversary of the United Nations) Dialogues and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), presented in partnership with the Academic Sustainability Programs Office and Faculty champions across the university

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Did you know?

Students continued to develop intercultural competencies through participation in virtual exchange and internship programs in 2020–2021.

The Global Opportunities and International Student Services pages were the most visited areas on our website.

By the numbers

  • 7,000+ incoming students from 94 countries and 6 continents across the world
  • 248 online Welcome Week activities across all McMaster Faculties
  • 3,400+ followers on the @MacWelcomeWeek Instagram
  • $1,700 in Campus Store gift cards awarded through the Student Success Challenge
  • 97 student participants in the Lit(erary) Club
  • 2,000+ student participants throughout Mac101: Introduction to University Life
7,000+ Welcome Week participants
248 online Welcome Week activities
3,400+Instagram followers

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light bulb iconNew initiatives

The Lit(erary) Club

(Also known as “not your average book club”), a program for first-year students based on You are Awesome by international best-selling author Neil Pasricha; included socials, conversations and more on everyday topics like finances, academics, wellness, careers, resilience and global engagement

Write and Tell Your Story

A three-week workshop series and program hosted by author and journalist Ann Bokma as part of International Education Week

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person iconStudent voice

“Joining the Mac101 webinars made me feel very wanted and welcomed to the McMaster community.”

— Mac101 event attendee

“The Write and Tell Your Story workshop had been such a riveting experience for me. It helped me enhance my writing skills and grasp the essence of what it truly means to tell a story. I am utterly grateful for both the Student Success Centre and Anne Bokma for providing us with this wonderful opportunity, something I will cherish for a lifetime.”

— Write and Tell Your Story program participant

“It was an amazing experience that introduced me to McMaster’s Faculties, students, and environment. It prepared me to begin this school year in a confident way.”

— Welcome Week attendee

“It let me explore some of the resources that McMaster offers that I was not aware of. I found it very helpful with helping me decide what to consider when choosing my second-year specialization as well as when I move out and live on my own.”

— Student Success Challenge participant

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Campus and community partnerships

Mac101: Introduction to University Life

A six-day program featuring webinars and sessions hosted by Student Affairs and campus partners, including the Student Wellness Centre, Student Accessibility Services, the Office of the Registrar, Athletics and Recreation and University Technology Services

Welcome Week

A collection of 248 synchronous and asynchronous activities offered in collaboration with all Faculties and programs and various departments across the university

The Lit(erary) Club

Program partners included the Student Wellness Centre, Athletics and Recreation and the Equity and Inclusion Office

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Did you know?

Welcome Week 2020 was McMaster’s first fully online Welcome Week, featuring live webinars, socials and on-your-own, asynchronous activities to accommodate different time zones and schedules. Taking place over an extended nine-day period, students and staff from all McMaster Faculties and departments welcomed the new class of incoming students from 94 countries across the world.

Neil Pasricha’s interactive Welcome Week session helped inspire the Lit(erary) Club program for first-year students. At the end of the program in the winter term, Neil returned for an intimate conversation and motivating discussion.

When we asked Student Success Challenge participants if they would recommend the program to friends, a total of 82% responded with “strongly agree” or “agree.”