In the Fall of 1997, the University of Calgary replaced its New Student Orientation Program with UofC 101: The Introduction, a four day non-credit orientation course for first-year students held during the first week of September. The first program of its kind in Canada, UofC 101 was made mandatory by the General Faculties Council committee that designed the program because research indicated that orientation programs increase retention and decrease attrition of undergraduate students. “The research is strong that when students take part in orientation activities they make a smoother transition to the university environment,” said Peggy Patterson, Associate VP (Student Affairs). “They are more likely to achieve higher grades, participate in extra-curricular activities and use campus resources.”
The course began with campus dignitaries welcoming students during an assembly in the Jack Simpson Gymnasium. Chancellor Ann McCaig, President Terry White,
Patterson, past Alumni Association president Barry Kowalski and Students’ Union president Pat Cleary spoke to the incoming body of students, focusing their comments on how the students’ success would help to build a stronger university. While initially the GFC committee declared the course would be mandatory, ultimately the design of UofC 101 included enough activities that were necessary for students to participate in – such as receiving campus cards and email accounts -- that it would be difficult for students to get connected to the university community without being involved in the course. Other aspects of the program included information for students about essay writing, career planning, student loans, parking passes, available technology, other resources and how to access them, a tour of the library, clubs, campus activities, and how to succeed in the first year.
The university tracked the performance of first year students in the year after UofC 101 was introduced and found that the course appeared to have a significant impact on student academic performance. The average Grade Point Average for all frosh students was 2.58; for those who skipped UofC 101 it was 2.30; and for those who attended the program it was 2.71. The results supported the research that had led to the creation of the program, and its success was being watched by other Canadian universities which were also impressed with the results and wanted to replicate it.