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Virtual orientation at OVC focuses on building community

Front of the main building at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary CollegeOrientation for first year student veterinarians at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) will focus on plenty of virtual engagement. 

As in previous years for the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program (DVM) program, the Class of OVC 2024’s orientation focuses on collaboration, teamwork and self-awareness; themes that will be front and centre not only during their orientation, but also referenced regularly throughout their four years in the DVM program at OVC. 

Along with icebreakers and introductions, students will participate in sessions focused on well-being, embracing diversity, thriving with virtual learning and exploring their strengths. 

The collection of large and small online group activities will encourage student veterinarians to connect and begin to build the relationships they will continue to grow throughout their veterinary career.

“Every year, the orientation week for incoming student veterinarians at OVC is a critical piece towards building resilience, effective communication, and strong teamwork skills, and inevitably leads our incoming student veterinarians to new discoveries of personal strengths, tools to successfully navigate and thrive as a team, and deep friendships.” says Joanne Hewson, OVC Associate Dean, Students and Academic. “Our orientation team has been truly visionary in ensuring this orientation week will continue to deliver on that goal, and they’ve put together an amazing plan that our newest student veterinarians will find both highly engaging and of far-reaching value in their professional growth.”

For the past few years, the first year DVM orientation has wrapped up with a two-day outdoor camp at Bark Lake, sponsored by VCA Canada. With the needed transition to a virtual approach for this year’s orientation, due to COVID-19, VCA has continued their partnership, supporting a number of innovative online sessions put together by the OVC orientation team. 

These creative approaches include a virtual group cooking class, online games including trivia and speed races, a virtual escape room experience, as well as virtual improv sessions and yoga to introduce students to a method of maintaining or improving their emotional well-being.

Activities will draw on attributes students will employ throughout their studies and their careers in veterinary medicine – team-building, collaboration, active listening, creative problem solving and building resilience.  They will also practice skills, such as remote teamwork, division of tasks, and coming to a consensus, that will be particularly relevant as they enter a semester with considerable online interactions with their colleagues. 

“Given our recent research demonstrating higher levels of poor mental health outcomes in Canadian veterinarians, it is imperative that we implement evidence-informed interventions for resilience and well-being,” says OVC professor Andria Jones-Bitton, OVC Director of Well-Being Programming. ”We begin to introduce these concepts in day one of orientation to the DVM program. I’m also looking forward to working with students to discuss their ideas for systemic and cultural changes to address well-being in the profession.” 

OVC facilitators, comprised of trained second-year DVM student volunteers, will lead debrief sessions after each of the activities to help OVC 2024 students to identify the relevance of the activity to their program and their future as a professional, and help them to actively practice self-reflection skills.

“Providing our students with a safe, welcoming environment where they start to build their skills for working, learning and problem solving effectively together has always been at the core of our DVM orientation week programming,” says OVC professor Deep Khosa, who focuses on veterinary primary healthcare teaching and research, and is part of the organizing team for orientation. “As we all continue to adapt to new ways of working and learning in the COVID-19 era, these skills are more vital than ever for our veterinary students.” 

Along with the DVM students beginning studies at OVC this fall, more than 100 graduate students are joining OVC in various graduate programs in Biomedical Sciences, Clinical Studies, Pathobiology and Population Medicine. 

They will be welcomed at online orientation sessions in each of OVC’s departments, as well as live chat sessions with staff in the U of G’s Office of Graduate Studies. 

Orientation for first-year U of G students also kicked off on September 5, as the university virtually welcomes students to the 2020 fall semester.  

To learn more about what the U of G student experience will look like this fall, visit the Virtual Campus page.