AssessmentHousing & Residence Life

Your Neighbour 2016: Continuing to Engage and Build Community

Your neighbour was an opportunity to engage with, contribute to, interact with, and most importantly learn from the community that intersects with Ryerson. By going out into the community we were able to see parallels to our own work culture as well as learn new methods of applying the Ryerson values into our work.
— Participant and Residence Advisor (RA), Your Neighbour 2016

This article was co-written by Troy Murray.

On August 24–25, 2016, 72 student leaders from Housing & Residence Life engaged with the Toronto community in the Your Neighbour project. Launched last year, Your Neighbour will continue to develop in order to meet the needs of our growing residence population, giving student leaders working and living in residence the opportunity to come together prior to move-in day, learn about their connection to the Academic Plan, and engage with the Toronto community and like-minded organizations in order to engage in dialogue using Ryerson’s values:

COMMUNITYSt. Stephen’s Community House
Native Family & Child Services
Anishnawbe Health Toronto
ACCESSHawthorne Food & Drink
DIVERSITYTangled Arts & Disability

What’s different for 2016?

We received an important piece of critical feedback from last year’s project which drove this year’s planning: last year’s initiative was intensive and long; too much for one day. There were subtle enhancements made to the curriculum, pre and post departure, to help make meaning of the on and off-site experience. We also wanted our pre and post assessment opportunities to be different for the 21 returning participants.

These changes were made to enhance the overall program and to create opportunities to allow participants to make meaning of each experience, not just the time off campus. We wanted the assigned value to truly resonate with participants and therefore connect to the agency they were visiting using the value as a platform to understand if/how they and the value connect to that organization.

Below are changes made to this year’s project compared to last year:

CHANGEAugust 2015August 2016
PARTICIPANTS56 student staff:
-22 Residence Advisors
-12 Academic Links
-Programming & Varsity Link
-20 Residence Service Desk Agents
-22 Residence Advisors
-12 Academic Links
-Programming & Varsity Link
-21 Residence Service Desk Agents
-2 Graduate Assistants
-6 Ryerson Residence Council executives
-7 Leadership Living Learning Community offered opportunity to move-in early and participate.
TIMING1 day:
- Last day of August Training program
- 8:00am-6:30pm with dinner following
2 days:

Day 1: Afternoon training
Day 2: Morning re-cap and then 3 hours off-site at agency; lunch/reflection on own; afternoon reconvene/assessment presentations; recap.
CURRICULUMMorning: pre-departure training on Academic Plan and leadership/engagement; values activity.

Afternoon: 3 hours off-site at agency applying value to engagement with agency.

Night: synthesis, assessment activity and presentation, keynotes from admin and United Way.
Day 1: introduction to Our Time to Lead, formalized leadership training connected to RU Leadership and Volunteer Link program; personal connection to Ryerson values activity.

Day 2: recap and departure to agency; facilitated self-directed assessment activity preparation and team time; afternoon assessment presentations connected to self, team and assigned value.
RESEARCHFoundations connected to:
Bloom’s Taxonomy
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory
Komives & Wagner’s Social Change Model for Leadership Development
Foundation and training connected to:
Bloom’s Taxonomy
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory
Baxter-Magolda’s Self Authorship Theory
Komives & Wagner’s Social Change Model for Leadership Development
Seligman’s PERMA-V Model/Theoretical Model of Happiness

What happened & assessment results:

Our objectives  from year one have come to life this year, and we feel it’s a result of the tweaks and enhancements we’ve made to the program. Your Neighbour has evolved into smaller community projects in and outside of residence that will further all of our students’ out of classroom experiences and influence a culture of philanthropy with the understanding of our values—that we are members of residence, Ryerson, and Toronto communities.

Below is our assessment results (rounded) compared to last year:

QuestionAugust 2016August 2015
I feel like my understanding of the specific value assigned to me is clearer as a result of Your Neighbour.Question was reframed.*Very Much Agree: 71%

Agree: 29%
I want to have another shared experience with a community organization with first-year students I engage with in my role/position.Very Much Agree: 53%
Agree: 44%
Neutral: 3%
Very Much Agree: 30%
Agree: 15%
Neutral: 15%
I feel like I was able to explore and critically examine how my intersecting roles as a student leader, and member of the Ryerson / Residence/ Toronto communities, are impacted by Ryerson’s values through personal and group reflection.**Very Much Agree: 31%
Agree: 55%
Neutral: 14%
Very Much Agree: 85%
Agree: 15%
BEFORE Your Neighbour, I felt like Ryerson is building a culture of community engagement and philanthropy.Very Much Agree: 45%
Agree: 45%
Disagree: 10%
Agree: 64.5%
Neutral: 29%
Disagree: 6.5%
AFTER Your Neighbour, I felt like Ryerson is building a culture of community engagement and philanthropy.Very Much Agree: 90% Agree: 6%
Disagree: 3%***
Very Much Agree: 71% Agree: 22.5%
Neutral: 6.5%

***This participant noted that one-time experience to meet/interact/engage cannot be proof that a culture of community is being built.

Interesting Notes

  • When asked which specific skill/behaviour this experience enhanced, the greatest trends were empathy and understanding.
  • Of the 21 returning participants to Your Neighbour who completed the post-assessment, almost all described this being more of an interactive experience and their context from last year allowed them to think critically about the values, with many describing they “learned more.” The pace of the days vs. one day was also preferred.
  • The experience at each agency was different/less structured than last year. More than half offered an interactive experience with the context of the organization’s mission and snapshot of what they do. Overall, the interactive experiences were better received by participants; however, one organization—which was strictly focused on touring their organization and learning about how they connect to the same value and Ryerson—was best received.
  • The agencies were also given context/background to educate about Ryerson and our values. This continued to prove helpful and strengthen our relationships with returning agencies and open new doors.
  • The participants wanted takeaways from each organization, which we initially discouraged due to the volume of resources (pamphlets, handouts, etc.) they would have already received in training.
  • In a new question, pre and post, asking how the participants intersecting roles as a student leader and member of the Ryerson/Residence/Toronto communities are impacted by Ryerson’s values, 53% strongly agree and 44% agree their awareness has increased. 1 participant strongly disagreed.

A returning participant to Your Neighbour captures their learning from this experience by describing the meaning they’ve made from the curriculum and visit, and we feel this quote articulates the importance of the Academic Plan as our foundation to the curriculum that has been developed. The participant said, “I learned to think about Ryerson’s values in non-traditional ways. There are angles of every one of them that go beyond what comes to mind when you read those short descriptions. Your Neighbour allowed me to re-assess how I thought about those values and how they can apply to many niche situations but still matter.”

What’s next?

With intentionally designed curriculum connected to the common purpose of Our Time to Lead, we continue to see self-directed initiatives from our Ryerson residence communities that meaningfully engage with organizations where our student leaders are able to create a dialogue using our values.

We’ve had residence communities come together to support and raise money for the United Way Toronto CN Tower Stair Climb; others contributed to Toronto Food Share and other local meal programs and even brought this experience to their student society; and we’ve had other residence communities contribute to clothing and food drives. Even better, other participants have also expressed interest in taking their entire floor/community to the agency they’ve visited. For Your Neighbour, our student leaders have been encouraged to develop initiatives to collaborate with organizations outside of campus in a meaningful way, rather than a one-off volunteer moment.

We feel this will not only broaden the perspective of the 72 participants from this year, but can also influence the entire Ryerson residence community of 856 students to have a new perspective of what Inclusion, Community, Respect for Aboriginal Perspective, Access, Equity, and Diversity means at Ryerson.

One quote comes to mind from one of our first-year Leadership Living Learning Community (LLC) students: “As a Leadership LLC student, Your Neighbour was a chance not only to acclimatize myself to the Ryerson residence environment early, but to interact with leaders around my age who were making a visible difference. Working with leaders inspires me to follow in their footsteps and become a leader not only in the Ryerson community but in the Toronto community as well.”

As Your Neighbour continues to evolve, we are excited to see how the 2016 results continue to shape this term. We look forward to seeing ways our smaller residence communities continue developing engagement opportunities in the winter. In August 2017, Your Neighbour will be offered as an early move-in opportunity for all five of our LLCs, rather than just Leadership.

If you’d like to institute a similar program on your campuses, we’re available to share our knowledge and lessons learned and are excited to present at ACPA 2017 in Columbus, Ohio!