Student Academic Success Service - Activity Report 2011-2013


I am pleased to publish the 2011-2013 Activity Report for the Student Academic Success Service (SASS). It highlights the important work that we do to support academic achievement and thus improve the quality of the student experience at the University of Ottawa.

In cooperation with the faculties, the SASS implements practices and services that help students to transition to university life, integrate into the uOttawa community, achieve academic success and stay the course to graduation, all of which is directly in keeping with the strategies outlined in the University of Ottawa’s Destination 2020 plan.

Over the past two years, the SASS has had to deal with an increase in the student population, and correspondingly, an increased need for specialized services related to cultural diversity, mental health, and accessibility issues.

I would like to underscore how grateful we are for all the support we have received from University of Ottawa senior management, faculties and staff members, but I would be remiss not to highlight the work of the professionals and the student mentors who make up the SASS team. Thanks to their dedication and team spirit, we will implement exemplary practices to support students and fulfill the SASS mission.

Murray Sang


The mission of the Student Academic Support Services (SASS) is to provide all students with resources and tools that foster success and result in a quality university experience. In cooperation with the faculties and services, the SASS helps students define and achieve their personal, academic and career goals during their university studies.


Number of services6
Number of individual consultations (2012-2013)22,111
Number of employees53
Number of UOWSP students about300
Number of scholarships awarded (2011-2013)10
Operating budget$4.6M



The Centre helps students write academic papers, acquire writing skills and understand the demands of academic writing so that they can become effective and independent writers. The Centre’s regular activities include:

  • providing individual help to undergraduate and graduate students;
  • providing services that are tailored to the needs of various student subpopulations;
  • creating in-class workshops;
  • producing teaching documents;
  • creating resources to prevent plagiarism;
  • providing a work space and tools for academic success.


The Aboriginal Resource Centre provides Aboriginal (First Nation, Inuit and Métis) students with a place to enrich their learning through various academic, social and cultural activities. The Centre also promotes Aboriginal cultures and traditions within university activities. The Centre’s regular activities include:

  • providing individual counselling to Aboriginal students to meet their academic, social or spiritual needs;
  • providing a meeting space and work space;
  • providing student mentorship services;
  • organizing social and cultural activities that raise awareness of Aboriginal traditions;
  • promoting the University of Ottawa within Aboriginal communities.


Access Service implements adaptive measures and learning strategies to meet the needs of students who are coping with visible, invisible or intermittent disabilities or psychosocial disorders. The Service’s regular activities include:

  • counselling students, one-on-one, about learning strategies and adaptive measures;
  • working with faculty staff to implement necessary and appropriate adaptive measures to meet the needs of students living with a handicap;
  • managing adapted exams (midterms and finals);
  • transcription services to convert teaching or learning materials into alternate formats;
  • providing mentorship services to those adopting various learning or adaptive technologies.


Career Services facilitates career selection education by providing students with the services and resources to design their career plans or prepare them to pursue graduate studies or enter the workforce. The Career Services’ regular activities include:

  • providing one-on-one and group counselling;
  • assisting students in developing their careers by administering psychometric tests, assessing their CVs and conducting simulated interviews;
  • creating career development tools (A Running Start: Your Career Development Guide, What can I do with my studies?);
  • informing students when job postings become available (JobsNow);
  • organizing networking activities and meetings with employers.


The Counselling and Coaching Service helps students develop the cognitive, emotional and social skills they need for university success. The Service provides short-term help to students who are experiencing personal difficulties and facilitates access to specialized psychological services in the community. The Service’s regular activities include:

  • providing short-term one-on-one counselling to students experiencing difficulties;
  • creating workshops on psychological issues that are academics-related, based on student needs;
  • creating information and training sessions to meet the needs of teaching or administrative staff members.


The Unit works with the University’s faculties and services to implement various support and mentoring services for students. It conducts analyses to better understand student profiles, identify factors that lead to success or dropping out, and actively seeks to identify at-risk students. The Unit’s regular activities include:

  • implementing orientation activities (summer and January);
  • managing the network of student mentoring centres;
  • participating in various surveys and research projects on the university experience;
  • working with faculties to identify students who are at risk and suggesting remedial measures.



Successful student transition to, and integration into, the university community depends on the type, quality and frequency of the student’s interactions, all of which forms the student experience. Of these interactions, those that students have with the SASS can help them develop the attitudes, behaviours and skills that lead them to fully engage in university life. SASS’s primary aim is to build personal or significant bonds with students to help prepare them for university. SASS’s major achievements in terms of transition and integration are:

Recruitment and liaison activities in Aboriginal communities

With the creation of a liaison officer position, we have increased the number of recruitment activities we conduct in Aboriginal communities and high schools. Every year, we participate in nearly a hundred activities, such as manning information booths and holding information sessions, presentations and partnerships with Aboriginal agencies in our area, to reach about 5000 potential students. In September 2013, 432 Aboriginal students were enrolled in the University of Ottawa.

Follow-up and mentorship activities for newly-admitted Aboriginal students

We contact new Aboriginal students in July to invite them to participate in orientation activities that take place in September. This helps us quickly identify what support they might need to help them transition to, and integrate into, university and an urban setting. Over the following three years, we track the academic progress of Aboriginal students whose admission averages were below 80% with the aim of identifying at-risk students to provide them with the help they need as quickly as possible.

Access Service liaison and transition activities

We created a position to liaise with students with disabilities and plan transition activities for them to consolidate links between Access Service, school boards and future students. The idea is to reorganize transition activities so that they become an integral part of the services provided by Access Service and include liaison with school boards to attract a greater number of students.

Summer Orientation

The summer orientation program aims to help new students transition to university and integrate into the university community. Students are invited to tour the campus with their parents during the summer, first to get a chance to visit the grounds but also to get to know their faculty and the university services at their disposal. Summer orientation gives students a chance to become familiar with the university and reduces the stress associated with starting class in September. In September 2013, the six faculties that admit undergraduate students participated in summer orientation and over 1500 students and 1800 parents benefited from this service.


Academic success and engagement are key to the SASS mission. It is important that we encourage students to use SASS services; in this way, we help them realize their full potential. SASS’s main goal is to provide services that target student needs and are tailored to individual students, and to help various student subgroups to face specific challenges. The main achievements of the SASS in terms of academic success and engagement are:

President’s Award for Service Excellence (Team) to Counselling and Coaching Service

In 2012, the University presented the President’s Award for Service Excellence (Team) to the staff of the Counselling and Coaching Service. This prize is awarded annually to a team whose quality of work and services are outstanding. This award was even more appreciated given that the Service managed to maintain the quality of its services in a year that saw a 35% increase in demand for its services.

New facilities for Access Service and the Aboriginal Resource Centre

With the aim of improving both access and facilities for the Aboriginal Resource Center and to Access Service, which welcome many students, we relocated these two units to new offices. Access Service is currently located on the third floor of Desmarais Hall, while the Aboriginal Resource Centre is located at 1 Nicholas.

Specialized support services to help develop writing skills

The Academic Writing Help Centre has created new specialized support services to help Aboriginal and international students improve their academic writing skills.

Creation of a French-language writing guide

A writing guide entitled Outils de rédaction, which was written to help improve the quality of French-language academic papers, is the first of its kind for students. It covers a number of topics ranging from critical thinking and the writing process to how to organize a paper and what reference styles to use to avoid plagiarism. The first edition of the guide will be officially launched by the University of Ottawa Press in January 2014.

Simplifying career counselling

We reviewed and clarified the responsibilities of both the Counselling and Coaching Service and the Career Services. Career Services is now in charge of coordinating and interpreting the psychometric tests that students take to identify their professional interests and help them choose their careers

Pet therapy

SASS has been working in conjunction with uOttawa Health Service’s Health Promotion team to create a pet therapy program to help students overcome the stress and anxiety of university studies. The stars of this program, namely a trio of dogs named Tundra, Rusty Bear and Sassy, provide joy and affection to between 20 and 40 students every week.

Specialized professional development programs

Career Services has implemented a series of specialized professional development programs aimed at meeting the specific needs of various student subgroups, such as international students, Aboriginal students, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students. Over the next few months, Career Services also plans on working from Roger Guindon Hall in order to better meet the needs of graduate students enrolled in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Mentoring Centre for Mature and Transfer Students

To help mature students make the most of university services, the Academic support unit has set up a mentoring centre for mature students which pairs mature students with mentors and runs workshops to give mature students a chance to meet with one another and discuss the challenges they face. The University of Ottawa admits between 1200 and 1300 mature students every year.

Aboriginal Elder who provides spiritual support

Spiritual support is now part of the range of services provided by the Aboriginal Resource Centre. In addition to one-on-one counselling, the Elder also organizes Sharing Circles and Healing Circles along with various Aboriginal ceremonies that take place on, or near, campus.

Peer counselling

The Counselling and Coaching Service has implemented an informal peer support network that allows students who use their counselling service to benefit from peer support, in between formal counselling sessions, to get through difficult times.


SASS’ collaborative approach has led to significant partnerships with the faculties and other university services to provide academic support. The main goal is to develop a campus-wide culture of mutual assistance that promotes learning, retention and perseverance in all students. The primary achievements of SASS in terms of retention and perseverance are:


The SASS IT team has created Ventus, a new Web application, to help manage the files of students who make use of SASS services. Access Service and the Counselling and Coaching Service are the first services to benefit from this new app. It is being used to manage requests for adapted measures and improve communications between students, Counsellors, Access Service specialists and the faculties.

Partnerships with the Centre for Psychological Services and the master’s program in educational counselling

Thanks to the first of these partnerships, the Counselling and Coaching Service can refer students who require psychological counselling to doctoral candidates completing internships at the School of Psychology. Thanks to the second partnership, the Service also provides students enrolled in a Master’s in Educational Counselling with an opportunity for practicum experience.

Residence-based counselling and coaching services

The Counselling and Coaching Service has increased its residence-based services by providing additional resources, namely a second full-time counsellor and a part-time intern. We aim to make this second full-time counsellor position a permanent one in 2014.

Crisis intervention training and awareness-raising

The Counselling and Coaching Service provides teaching and administrative staff members with training workshops in crisis intervention. At the request of Faculty of Social Sciences staff members, the Service has created a workshop that explores questions of mental health and how to intervene with students in crisis. In 2014, the Service will meet with staff members from the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science.

Campus Campaign Scholarships

As part of Campus Campaign 2012, the SASS launched a new annual scholarship that will be awarded to a student registered with Access Service. This scholarship increases the range of services that aim to remove barriers to learning and help students with disabilities succeed in their university studies.

Virtual Career Library

In partnership with the Library, the CO-OP program and the Career Centre at the Telfer School of Management, Career Services has created a portal for students and graduates to host all the University’s career counselling and professional development resources in one place.


The Academic Support Unit conducts research and analysis to measure the impact of services on the quality of the student experience. The Unit’s main goal is to draw a general picture of the student experience at the University of Ottawa in order to understand the factors that influence success, failure and drop-out rates. SASS’s main achievements in terms of research and analysis are:

Cohort Project (SASS in partnership with SEM)

The Academic Support Unit is helping to implement Project Cohort, which aims to develop a framework from which to analyse the needs of first-year students and the challenges they face. This project will follow a cohort of students, capture the points at which they interact with various services and document their needs over time. The project team will issue weekly and sessional reports (fall/winter/summer).


Over the coming months, SASS would like to pursue various other projects; here are a few examples:

    • Access Service is seeking to change attitudes towards adaptive measures. This change rests partly on the implementation of the Ventus system, more direct communication between students and professors, and an appreciation of their responsibilities within the learning process and in managing adaptive measures.

    • The Academic Writing Help Centre wishes to pursue its research into new approaches to teaching academic writing because it must consider several factors, including a variety of language skill levels, cultural differences, learning styles, ability to use computer resources and references, and plagiarism.

    • The Aboriginal Resource Centre plans on developing new promotion strategies to increase the visibility of Aboriginal traditions and cultures on campus and thus increase their presence within university culture.

    • The Counselling and Coaching Service wishes to intensify its coaching training to broaden their range of interventions and incorporate counselling over the phone, over the Internet, or through support groups, in order to help students who are not necessarily in crisis.

    • Career Services wants to focus on implementing services that are tailored to the needs of various student subgroups, such as foreign students, Aboriginal students, handicapped students and LGBTQ students, but would also like to more precisely meet the needs of various faculties or academic programs.

    • The Academic Support Unit aims to broaden the orientation program to provide the same types of services to students admitted in January. In addition to working with the University’s faculties and services, the Unit is also working to develop new support and mentorship programs for students, which will lead to significant changes in institutional practices.

2011-2013 STATISTICS

Academic Writing Help Centre2011 - 20122012 - 2013Aboriginal Resource CentreStudent MentoringAccess ServiceCareer ServicesCounselling and Coaching Service
Number of students attending one-on-one appointments12101211
Visits to the Centre33493101
Number of in-class presentation and workshops6250
Number of students attending presentations and workshops23522350
Students registered at the Centre180211
Number of students attending one-on-one appointments-200
Students attending workshops-50
Communities visited7886
Number of students attending one-on-one appointments10,35916,990
Number of visits17.41631,350
Number of students attending one-on-one appointments12241262
Number of adapted exams--
Number of students attending one-on-one appointments1422662
Students attending workshops16062272
Students attending CV reviews and mock interviews-1162
Students attending networking and information sessions16691221
Number of students attending one-on-one appointments17611781


Each fall, we survey all the students who are about to complete their program of undergraduate studies. Here are the survey results for 2011 and 2012 under the heading “Satisfaction with facilities and services”.

Question 15, which deals with SASS services, reads: How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the following facilities and services at the University of Ottawa? The satisfaction rates for each of the services were as follows:

    • In 2011, satisfaction rates for four of the six services were equal to, or better than, 80 %.

    • In 2012, the satisfaction rate for one service was 90% and three of the six services had satisfaction rates of better than 80 %.

    • For 2011 and 2012, all SASS services saw their satisfaction rates increase or remained stable.

Service 2011 2012
Academic Writing Centre82%82%=
No. of respondents822768
Aboriginal Resource Centre80%90%+ 10
No. of respondents227243
Access Service81%83%+ 2
No. of respondents410429
Career Service69%72%+ 3
No. of respondents1076956
Counselling and Coaching Service74%75%+ 1
No. of respondents847827
Student mentor-related services78%83%+ 5
No. of respondents606610


Here is the list of articles that were published in the Gazette from 2011 to 2013.

    • A friend in need: pet therapy as a way to reduce students’ stress and anxiety (October 2013)

    • Get into the writing groove with the new “Outils de rédaction” (September 2013)

    • Change is sweeping through Access Service (May 2013)

    • Coming out in the workplace (March 2013)

    • Six uOttawa students receive CIBC Mentorship Program Scholarship (February 2013)

    • Access Service is moving (November 2012)

    • Mental Health Fair in the Agora: You are not alone (October 2012)

    • Students who get counselling at the Counselling and Coaching Service are more likely to do very well and to graduate on time (September 2012)

    • Alumnus Ian Charlebois’ $10,000 donation helps level the playing field for uOttawa students with learning disabilities (June 2012)

    • Animal therapy pilot program for University of Ottawa students (February 2012)

    • Tundra (February 2012)

    • SASS offers a new peer support initiative (February 2012)

    • uOttawa launches the Virtual Career Library to help students and alumni get ahead in their careers (February 2012)

    • The University of Ottawa is pleased to welcome Morning Star, the new Elder/Advisor at SASS’s Aboriginal Resource Centre (October 2011)


Academic Writing Help Centre522 to 25
Aboriginal Resource Centre33
Access Service1535 to 80
Career Development Centre825 to 28
Counselling and Coaching Service158
Academic Support Unit72 to 19
Student Mentoring Network0220


SASS 2011 to 2013 budget pie chart

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