After a few exclusive Instagram posts at @oisevoices, today we return to OISE acronym series with a special post for my fellow current students! Of course, I hope it helps future students too, as you'll be able to see the range of support services OISE offers for your academic journey!
We will address today 4 very important acronyms to help guide you through your graduate needs: ORSS, OSSC, EdCommons & SGS.
ORSS - The Office of the Registrar & Student Services - is probably the first contact you have with OISE. They are responsible for the admissions sector, for registration, course enrollment & course schedules, they house financial matters (though we will explore that sector separately in another post!), Student Services and the OSSC. It's also where you'll find all important dates you need to be aware of not to miss registration, course enrollment, fee payment dates and other important deadlines.
Comprehensiveness is the word to define the ORSS. Just thinking of forms you might need, at ORSS you'll find: add/drop course forms; Individual Reading and Research (IRR) course forms; leave of absence forms; degree/program transfer form; program extension forms; illness verification form; and all the forms related to completing the steps of your program, such as supervision approval form, master's research project or comprehensive exams completion form and the OISE application to graduate form. That's of course added to all the documentation you might need for external purposes.
But the ORSS is not just about the bureaucratic matters of your graduate degree, it's also about broader student services - a key element for a as-smooth-as-possible graduate student life. There you'll find accessibility & disability services, counselling services, teacher employment preparation and the OSSC, our next acronym!
I REALLY invite you all, both future and current students to explore the ORSS page in depth! Though many procedures during your degree will require that your first contact point is in your specific department (such as "letting them know" you'll be turning in your comprehensive exams for the PhD, or actually creating an IRR course), it's through ORSS that the administrative mechanisms will work to make sure everything you do is official and recorded. Do not hesitate to seek help & guidance during your time at OISE, whatever the issue might be from your mental health to being Indigenous at OISE to choosing a career path, there will be someone you can talk to through the ORSS hub.
Right now, all services are being offered digitally. Check here who to email for each specific concern you might have!
As mentioned, the OSSC is housed under the ORSS, however, because of the specific services it offers, I believe it's important to address it separately. OSSC stands for OISE Student Success Center and it's where you'll go for academic & writing support during your program. Through OSSC, you can book 1:1 appointments with an advisor to improve your skills in a variety of areas: Academic Writing; French/English Language Development; Graduate Student Writing Groups; Literature Review; Presentation Skills; Resume and Cover Letters; Mock Interviews; and Teacher Skills Development.
Most of our advisors are doctoral candidates (that is, students in doctoral programs who have already passed their comprehensive exams) from our PhD programs at OISE and have expertise in different fields related to the support being given, such as ESL/FSL, quantitative/qualitative methods, curriculum & lesson plan development, teacher development and, of course, as the PhD candidates they are, academic writing.
The OSSC also periodically offers academic writing support groups, such as the now offered Thesis in Motion project and the MEd Academic Writing Group.
The Education Commons is all about the new world this pandemic has created. From IT support and a few services here and there, Ed Commons is now a massive and vital element of grad school at OISE. Their page offers so many technological support resources that I again invite you to explore it in depth and be amazed. They are doing an amazing job since day one of this new normal, and I have used their services multiple times, specially the virtual computer lab!
Just through their online support center you can do a zoom drop-in, can submit a technical issue ticket, can call them and get assistance or even book a consultation with an Ed Commons expert. In the virtual workshop sessions, you can have a coffee with the director and ask questions, learn to use Office and Quercus, learn to do more efficient ppt presentations, learn to use DocuSign, to make your website and videos accessible, learn how to use the virtual computer lab and so much more. If you miss any, you can also access the virtual sessions archives.
The virtual computer lab is also an amazing tool that makes available and free to you the use of normally expensive software that you might need either for research or for simply following your courses properly. Currently, there's access for students to: SPSS v. 26; Nvivo; Stata v. 15; Access to OneDrive; Covidence; MS Office Pro; and RedCap. Of course, if you need help in using any of that, you can find help through the support center!
If you are in a research based program, be sure to explore all Ed Commons has to offer for research support on the Researcher's corner. There you will find all about online data collection, management, analysis, storage and security.
Last but not least, SGS, the School of Graduate Studies of the University of Toronto.
Usually you will not have to go straight to SGS for the everyday needs, as the ORSS makes it a lot easier for OISE students to access and resolve bureaucratic issues directly at OISE rather than having to go to SGS, which deals with ALL graduate school issues in ALL of UofT. However, there are 4 resources/pages in SGS that I believe to be essential for any student:
First, the SGS calendar. This is where you're going to find sessional dates, specific admission requirements for each and every graduate program at UofT, program requirements (meaning what you'll actually have to do during your degree), degree regulations, fee regulations, a welcome by the SGS Dean, important notices and even a list of graduate faculty.
Second, it's the Awards and Funding page. There you will find ALL about receiving money for your studies, with even an award explorer to help you locate opportunities that fit in your specific path. Many people have asked me "oh, what's the funding opportunities for this program or that degree" and my answer always is, IT VARIES A LOT. Even if I tell you about OSAP, OGS and SSHRC (which I will, soon enough) this does not even begin to cover the possibilities you have. There's funding based on who you are, based on your academic standing, based on your research area, based on your professional area, based on your needs and so, so much more. Do explore that page, both current and future students!
Third, the GradHub is a page that puts together every single information you might need, from being new at UofT/Toronto to student representation information to degree enhancements and grad student life. It's also a fresh page created to facilitate the locating of all info you might need.
Last, the GCAC (yep, another acronym lol). The GCAC stands for Graduate Centre for Academic Communication and, similar to the OSSC but for all of UofT, it offers academic communications support through TONS of workshops and courses, from writing emails to understanding academic articles to improving oral presentation skills and your grammar, there's something for everyone. Just notice that because we have the 1:1 writing support via OSSC, we are not eligible for 1:1 writing support at GCAC.
That's all for today folks! I really hope this whole lot of information can help guide yourself better during your time at OISE. I know this is specially hard for us second-years and for first-year students as we all begun our programs in the middle of a worldwide pandemic when the great people at ORSS couldn't be there in person for you to just knock and ask. They have done an amazing job however, offering drop in hours on zoom, doing everything digitally and still managing to help new and returning students find support and access resources.
As I said multiple times, do access the websites linked here and study them as if you were studying for a course. Take ownership of your time at OISE! It's so important that you know everything there is available to you in terms of regulations, resources, information and support so you can make the most of your time at OISE. We are all cheering you on, be it for you to be accepted into a program, to overcome the challenges of grad school, to finish your degree with pride and satisfaction and of course, to have a brilliant path in your professional future.
Thinking about that, our next conversation will be about the many possibilities for your professional future, because with OISE, you can!