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Yorkville appoints Dr. Deirdre Pickerell as new Dean of Student Success

Student Stories

June 14, 2019

How can I help?

That’s the touchstone Dr. Deirdre Pickerell plans to let guide her in her new role as Dean of Student Success for Yorkville University and Toronto Film School.

“As far as I’m concerned, my biggest question will be, ‘How can I, in this new position, support the people already doing the heavy lifting on the frontline?’” said the Vancouver-based Pickerell, who began her new assignment on June 3.

With her focus now on centralized student success strategies and services, Pickerell said she’s looking forward to acting as a ‘conduit’ for the transfer of best practices. Her new mandate, she said, will be in choosing from amongst the best of those student-focused initiatives already being undertaken at each individual campus, figuring out how to effectively duplicate those practices, and then delivering them across all of Yorkville and Toronto Film School’s on-campus and online brands.

“What’s exciting to me about this new role is having this opportunity to bring together everybody who’s engaged in all these pockets of brilliance across all our programs at Yorkville and Toronto Film School, and getting to be their conduit,” she said.

“For example, John Hunter at TFS Online has done some really cool things around student orientation that no one else knows about – but they should know about it! My job is to figure out what Yorkville and TFS on-campus can learn from it, as well as how we can take it, remodel it, repackage it, and do it elsewhere, as well.”

Working under Pickerell to help achieve those ends will be Talia Singer, the newly promoted Director of Mental Health Counselling, and Norma Williams in the new role of Accessibility Officer.

On the mental health side of things, Pickerell said she’s excited to work with Singer – whom she praised for her “brilliant” work to ensure on-campus students have ready access to counselling services – to make those services even more accessible.

“The next phase for Talia and myself is to pilot online counselling, so that students from other regions who can’t go to the Toronto campus have access to mental health services, too,” she said.

Following that online pilot, Pickerell said she and Singer will also look to expand the school’s physical, on-campus counselling services to both its Vancouver and Fredericton locations ­– something she’s confident can be achieved by duplicating the successful, Singer-helmed initiative that brought Yorkville’s Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology (MACP) students into Toronto Film School’s counselling rooms for their practicum placements.

That arrangement, she said, serves the “dual purpose” of both providing MACP students with the valuable experience needed to fulfill their practicum placement obligations, while also helping to staff the counselling centres.

Accessibility wise, Pickerell said Williams was hired to work in collaboration with Yorkville and Toronto Film School’s campus-based program advisors to provide accessibility and accommodations services to students across the university.

“She brings a background around not only functional, but also cognitive limitations and disabilities,” Pickerell said, noting that Yorkville not only has a moral obligation to provide accessible education opportunities for those students, but also a legal one to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“…So, she’ll be looking at everything from policy and procedure and process, to maintaining confidentiality of student records, to considering when we should invite a student or an applicant to disclose that they need accommodation.”

Another big project that will get lots of attention under Pickerell’s leadership is the Learning Success Centre – a project she was previously trying to juggle amidst competing priorities as the then-Dean of Academics at Yorkville’s B.C. Campus.

“Before, there was nobody who kind of owned it 100 per cent. I owned it off the side of my desk, so it got attention off the side of my desk,” she said, noting that under the new Academic Services unit, the Learning Success Centre will become a much bigger priority.

“Not only in terms of cleaning up the content that’s there, but also curating new content for students. We need to build it out to make it a really evolving, thriving, dynamic place for students to go to access services.”

To those ends, Pickerell said the online hub ­– which currently houses a range of articles and resources, from campus orientation links for new students, to library tools, writing and math labs, study supports and tutoring links – will soon see the addition of several new learning blocks to its existing slate of resources.

The trio of new blocks already planned for the Learning Resource Centre include:

  1.  Tools to Support Health and Wellness – information on everything from sleep literature, to mental health, to homesickness, to nutrition
  2. Career Services – profiles on ­students/grads that have interesting jobs, listings of employers that are hiring, latest 10 tips on resume writing, etc.
  3. Are You in a Crisis? – links, not only to Yorkville’s counselling services but also crisis lines across the world, so if students are in crisis, they can get immediate assistance

“There’s a ton of stuff on there now, but what I’m looking forward to… is being able to track what resources students are accessing on the Learning Success Centre, and adding more videos and screen capture and stuff like that to make it more multi-dimensional and not just text,” Pickerell said.

“Over the next six months, I think we’ll really see the Learning Success Centre start to create a life of its own. We want to make it into a Learning Commons online – that’s the ultimate goal.”