Helping hands and quirky courses: a buffet of back-to-school stories for media

Move-In days into Western residences are filled with energy and excitement. This year's move-in days take place Sunday, Sept. 3 and Monday, Sept. 4.

Thousands of university students are set to unpack their suitcases on campus this weekend — and then get to work helping Londoners before they buckle down to their studies.

For the first time, Western University has launched Orientation Serves (O-Serves), to take place on Sept. 9. It’s a day when first-year students will perform 10,000 hours of volunteer service in the city where they will spend the next school year.

From planting trees with ReForest London to running a community picnic for newcomers through the London Cross Cultural Learner Centre, students will gain insights into their broader community, while Londoners benefit from the enthusiasm and labour of the city’s newest residents.

 “Students will be able to experience the city outside the university gates, understand more about their urban environment and, in tangible ways, invest time and talents into the community,” said Chris Alleyne, director of residences at Western University and co-chair of the Orientation Planning Committee.

In past years, students have stationed themselves at intersections to raise money through Shinerama. “We’ve moved away from this charity collection — which was a great idea but allowed for only fleeting connections with Londoners,” Alleyne said. “In its place, O-Serves gives students an opportunity to reach beyond campus, to donate time and to forge lasting relationships with people and charitable organizations beyond their academic experiences.”

Students donating their time will fan out in groups across the city starting at about noon on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Other back-to-school stories media may consider:

KISS-AND-CRY: Move-in days at residence are among the most energetic and emotional of the year. Most of the 5,300 students living in residence will arrive in stages on Sunday, Sept. 3, and Monday, Sept. 4, with the help of 800 Orientation volunteers and 150 student residence staff. As incoming students and their parents arrive at their assigned residence buildings, volunteers descend on the vehicles, unload student belongings and whisk them up to their rooms. Parents can then park in nearby lots and return to residence to help their children unpack and wish them well in their new spaces. “It’s a new home and a fresh start for most of these students, and we work hard to encourage a sense of belonging from the moment they arrive,” said Chris Alleyne, director of residences at Western University and co-chair of the Orientation Planning Committee. Media wishing to cover move-in days at Western should plan to arrive at Saugeen-Maitland Hall on Sunday between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

LEARNING TO LEARN: On the first day of class, students often ask what they’ll need to know to pass. That’s almost always the wrong approach, said Gavan Watson associate director of eLearning at Western’s Teaching Support Centre. “Good teachers and good learners will always figure out what they need to know to get by. But truly inspired teachers and learners, whether they’re in elementary school or at the post-doctoral level, understand that lasting success comes more from asking how: how to ask questions that matter, and how to make meaning from those answers.” Watson is available to provide back-to-school learning advice that can resonate with students of all ages.

RUMOUR HAS IT: Every year, Western offers new and interesting courses. This year’s unusual academic offerings include a fourth-year course on rumour as social commentary, taught by alumna Lainey Lui, who is a gossip blogger and television host; an online course on the “poli-tainment” of television shows that offer political satire, political comedy and political drama; and a second-year course that focuses on strong female protagonists rebelling against totalitarian societies in dystopian novels. Available to speak about the courses and why they are important and timely are Prof. Joel Faflak, director of the School for Advanced Studies in Arts and Humanities, and political science lecturer Nigmendra Narain.

ORIENTATION WEEK: Both Western University and the University Students’ Council have organized a range of welcome activities throughout next week. Rallies and gatherings will help students start the year right as part of a safe, respectful, healthy and world-changing learning community.


— 5,060 first-year students enrolled; average age 18.5 years old as of Sept. 1

— in residence, 5,300 students from all years

— Western’s annual economic impact is $11.3 billion, of which $3.6 billion is realized in London (Source: KPMG Management Consulting, 2015)

— 310,000 alumni in 150-plus countries

MEDIA CONTACT: Debora Van Brenk, Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85165, or on mobile at 519-318-0657 and

ABOUT WESTERN: Western University delivers an academic experience second to none. Since 1878, The Western Experience has combined academic excellence with life-long opportunities for intellectual, social and cultural growth in order to better serve our communities. Our research excellence expands knowledge and drives discovery with real-world application. Western attracts individuals who have a broad worldview and who seek to study, influence and lead in the international community.

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Move-In days into Western residences are filled with energy and excitement. This year's move-in days take place Sunday, Sept. 3 and Monday, Sept. 4.