The path to success looks different for everyone —the Student Success Office is here to help each Warrior find the route that is best for them.  

We aspire to create an inclusive and welcoming campus culture where every student has the tools they need to succeed. To make this vision a reality, we provide services and supports that promote students' connections with the campus community and fosters their academic development, while also building collaborative and intentional relationships with University staff and faculty to shape their understanding of the vital role they play in creating positive learning environments at Waterloo.  

If 2020/2021 was the year we pivoted our programs and services in response to COVID-19, 2021/2022 only further illustrated the need to continue adapting. In response to rapidly changing COVID-19 policies, we were agile in our delivery of international student supports; we prepared students for success by refining existing virtual transition programs and creating opportunities for student exchange despite frequent changes in government advice; we prioritized building connections within our campus community to overcome the limits of virtual environments; and we continued to champion and advance the SSO’s commitment to anti-racism and equity within our unit and beyond. Our unit’s dedication to student success and collaborative work is evident not only in our knowledge sharing and mobilization efforts in the past year, but in all of our collective accomplishments. 

This Year at a Glance report is a glimpse into the SSO’s impact from May 2021 to April 2022. 

Supporting international students

A black icon image of an airplane flying through a globe.
A black icon image of an airplane flying through a globe.
19,000+immigration consultations
1,028international students reached during 51 travel information drop-in sessions
407inbound exchange terms to Waterloo.
68exchange terms abroad to 13 countries. 

Supporting international students

COVID-19 created unique challenges and uncertainty for international students in the areas of travel restrictions, vaccine requirements for entry, access to approved vaccines, and quarantine requirements. For the second year in a row, many international students were forced to begin their first year of studies in their home country or outside of Canada. These challenges not only limited international students’ ability to enter Canada for their studies and gain Canadian experiences, but also prevented students from building meaningful, in-person connections to the campus community. 

To combat these challenges, we continued our collaborative work with Campus Wellness, Conference Management, and Information, Systems and Technology to deliver the International Student Arrival Plan; navigated immigration and travel regulations in order to have inbound exchange students arrive for the first time since 2019; and facilitated community building events, both in-person and online. 


In 2022-2023 we will deepen our understanding of the international student community at Waterloo by leveraging data and other new ways to engage students and solicit their direct feedback. This work will further uncover what gaps exist in our programming and services and ultimately help us adapt our offerings to deliver a sustainable and supportive environment that is worthy of our students.  

Preparing students for success

A black linear icon of an open text book.
A black linear icon of an open text book.
46%of incoming students participated in at least one Waterloo Ready component
87%of incoming students opened Waterloo Ready emails vs. 23.42% industry standard
86%of participants were satisfied with Grad Ready (including very to somewhat satisfied); up 4% from 2020
496Peer Success Coaching appointments including UNIV 101
2,300+MSLQ participants

Preparing students for success

Every student deserves to thrive—both at university, and in life. Getting them there is our priority.  

To empower students to start their studies with confidence, we refined Waterloo Ready modules, streamlined email communications, and responded to student feedback to improve peer mentorship opportunities. The SSO also assumed responsibility for Waterloo Grad Ready for fall 2021, a termly transition program for incoming graduate students. 

We continue scaling the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) in faculties and reporting results to our partners. The MSLQ is one of the most widely used assessment tools in educational research. It measures the learning strategies and academic motivation of college and university students. The SSO has implemented the MSLQ into first year courses in the faculties of Arts (including the School of Accounting and Financial Management), Environment, Health, and Science.  

We applied lessons learned during the first waves of COVID-19, continued to evaluate our new digital offerings, and again pivoted to a hybrid delivery model when classes began to move back in person in early 2022. 


As we look ahead, the SSO continues to find opportunities to support students through this period of change and transition in a myriad of ways, including through the new “Student Success in the Post-Pandemic Universityproject, where we aim to understand more about challenges students are facing coming out of the pandemic, elevate awareness across campus, and advocate for understanding of the student experience around these barriers, with special focus for equity deserving groups, such as Black, Indigenous, racialized and traditionally under-represented; and executing an Ontario Postsecondary Access and Inclusion Program (OPAIP) to create specialized peer mentorship opportunities within Waterloo Ready for these communities

Building and maintaining communities during the pandemic

An image in black and white of four outlined people
An image in black and white of four outlined people
208Advisor Conference attendees, up 21% from 2021
307Quarantine Warrior support group attendees
730international peer community participants (terms combined)
20,000+followership on @UWaterlooLife Instagram  
243upper-year peer mentor supporting 210 peer communities in Waterloo Ready

Building and maintaining communities during the pandemic

In its most recent strategic plan, the University of Waterloo has committed to creating diverse and sustainable communities that foster “inclusivity, a sense of belonging and a culture of involvement.”   

The SSO has direct accountability for this work. We know that connections with fellow students, staff and faculty create resilient Warriors who can access the tools they need when they need them and maintain strong networks to lean on in times of difficulty.  

Despite delivering classes and campus services virtually, we found ways to support students’ engagement with Waterloo and build connections with their peers: to combat loneliness and isolation during mandated COVID-19 travel quarantine periods, international students were encouraged to participate in support group sessions or engage with peers from around the world through the International Peer Community; students shared their “new normal” through day-long takeovers or stayed up-to-date on vaccine mandates and campus access requirements through the UWaterlooLife Instagram account; and formed networks through Waterloo Ready peer mentorship groups.  

Finally, through the cross campus advising strategy the SSO aims to enhance the student experience by equipping advisors with the information and knowledge they require in order to meet students' needs and exceed their expectations. This year’s virtual Advising Conference focused on supporting equity-deserving students and featured keynote presentation delivered by award-winning journalist and author Eternity Martis. 

Guided by educational research and data collected from our own community, we are committed to offering programming and resources that link students and empower staff, while staying nimble and anticipating the future needs of these audiences.  


The work listed above is only the beginning; this will be a major area of growth for the SSO and more broadly for the Associate Provost, Students (APS) portfolio throughout 2022-2023 and beyond. Building on the UWaterlooLife digital brand for students, a new team has been created and reports into the APS. This team of former SSO communications, insights, and systems professionals will focus on developing a shared strategy for strengthening student communications and insights initiatives and deepening capacity to work with campus partners towards meaningful change.  

As classes and in-person activities have resumed on campus, so too have our efforts to rebuild students’ sense of belonging at Waterloo. To support these efforts, we repositioned an existing role to the Manager, Student Equity and Community. We are in the early stages of scoping this portfolio. 

Advancing our anti-racism and equity-focused commitments

An image in black and white of two outlined supporting each other
An image in black and white of two outlined supporting each other
70+SSO and AAS staff received intensive anti-racism training
23hard-copy anti-racism resources available in the SSO lending-library
1survey on equity in global exchange launched

Advancing our anti-racism and equity-focused commitments

In 2021/2022 we began to action anti-racism and equity work with intentionality and care via the SSO and AccessAbility Services Anti-Racist Initiatives (SAARI) committee 

SAARI’s ‘Onboarding and Baseline Education Working Group’ identified nine core competencies for all SSO/AAS staff and engaged an external facilitator to deliver training for 70+ SSO and AccessAbility staff. A Student Equity Specialist was hired on a one-year contract to identify and develop opportunities to proactively contribute to the success of equity-deserving students at UWaterloo. Since joining the office, the specialist has built connections with over 70 campus partners, finalized nine campus consultations, and delivered six new workshops for full-time and student staff.  

Further, the Global Learning team in the SSO launched an equity exchange survey, to understand how the demographics and travel experience of prospective exchange students differ from the overall student body. The project aims to provide a more complete picture of students intending to study internationally and develop supports and initiatives for groups underrepresented in exchange participation.


SAARI’s work continues and is currently focused on HR policy and building capacity in each SSO team. As staff now share a baseline education, we now turn our attention to identifying how to translate our shared learning into changes to our work and approach that reflect our growing anti-racism lens to no longer rely on a centralized committee alone. Further, each area within the SSO has updated their strategic plan to include equity and anti-racism commitments.  

We continue to approach this work with curiosity and empathy and aspire to make equity knowledge accessible for all. 

Achieving excellence and sharing expertise

An image in black and white of a megaphone
An image in black and white of a megaphone
Universities Canada grant for Outbound Student Mobility Program Innovation fund Partnership: AccessAbility Services
eCampus Virtual Learning Strategy Grant: Critical Information for STEM studentsPartnerships: Library, Faculty of Engineering, Office of Academic Integrity, and partner institutions
eCampus Virtual Learning Strategy Grant: Academic Integrity for Undergraduate STEM students Partnerships: Office of Academic Integrity, Library, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Mathematics, Faculty of Science, and partner institutions
eCampus Ontario grant to develop modules in Advancing Intercultural Competence for Global LearnersPartnership: Waterloo International, Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, Co-operative Education, Renison University College, University of Calgary, Centre for Extended Learning
Learning Innovation & Teaching Enhancement (LITE) Seed GrantPartnership: Faculty of Arts/Renison University College

Achieving excellence and sharing expertise

The SSO is home to thought leaders that contribute to the rich landscape of literature and knowledge in the field of student success in higher education. We share our expertise via presentations and open educational resources, expand our work through grants, broaden our understanding of audience needs through research, and mobilize this knowledge through our deep ties to all Waterloo faculties and services, and our own programming.  

Grants 

  • Erin Gagnon-Jobidon and Jhotisha Mugon. Centre for Teaching Excellence LITE grant: “Assessing a modified version of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire as a student development tool” (2022). 
  • Jazz Fitzgerald and Ashley McKnight. Ontario Postsecondary Access and Inclusion Program (OPAIP): “Peer Mentorship Initiative for Equity-Deserving Students” (2022). 

 Courses/Modules 

  • Sandra Lopez-Roacha. e-Campus Ontario course: "Advancing Intercultural Competence for Global Learners” Simple Book Publishing” (2021). eCampusOntario website
  • Amanda McKenzie, Erin Nearing, Maria Barichello, Stephanie Mutch, Kari D. Weaver, Rebecca Hutchinson, Kathy Szigeti, Michael Chee, Stefaniada Voichita and Anthony Maocheia-Ricci. e-Campus Ontario Educational Unit – Lesson: “Academic Integrity for STEM Students” (2022). eCampusOntario website.

 Presentations 

  • Pam Charbonneau and Sacha Geer. “SSO and AAS Anti-Racism Initiatives (SAARI).” University of Waterloo Anti-Racism Forum (September 2021). 
  • Sandra Lopez-Rocha. “Challenges Developing Intercultural Competence in Higher Education.” Intercultural Leadership Forum (November 2021).
  • Sacha Geer and Elissa Cressman. “Re-starting & Supporting Mobility safely: ideas, opportunities & lessons learned.” Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) Conference (November 2021).  
  • Sacha Geer and Jennifer Gillies. “Identifying and Reducing Barriers to Exchange for Students with Disabilities at the University of Waterloo.” CBIE Conference (November 2021).
  • Paige Doherty, Jazz Fitzgerald, Devon Hutchinson. Student Success in the Post-Pandemic University" University of Waterloo Staff Conference (April 2022). 
  • Sandra Lopez-Rocha. “Understanding and Developing Intercultural Competence.” University of Waterloo Staff Conference (April 2022) 
  • Claire Taylor and Jenn Willoughby. “Student Communication Preferences and How to Leverage Them – Results From the 2021 Student Communications Survey.” University of Waterloo Staff Conference (April 2022). 

 Digital articles  

The path forward

The impact of our grants, awards, and knowledge mobilization efforts continues into 2022-2023. Work to provide prospective exchange and study abroad students with accessibility information for host universities is forthcoming; peer mentorship for international and equity-deserving students is imminent; and student communications survey results have been shared with campus stakeholders and higher education communications professionals nation-wide.

We look forward to sharing the results of these initiatives in the 2023 Year at a Glance report, and beyond.  

Year at a Glance 2020-2021