Feedback from Volunteers regarding the 2005 Ontario Universities Fair

The Tags.

They could be more precise, precising wether the carrier is a student or a professor, and the department inside its faculty. -- JeremyBarbay - 06 Oct 2005

I think they didn't want to draw such distinctions, but people do this, and it doesn't always break towards "high status"; for example, prospective students would rather hear from students than faculty about residence, social opportunities, classroom atmosphere, and so on. More information wouldn't hurt. I wrote "CS" on my badge, but had to tell people that I taught the subject. -- PrabhakarRagde - 06 Oct 2005

The distinction is useful. It allows prospective students to know who they are talking to, and so to ask questions to the right people (e.g., students for residence etc., faculty for course content). Identifying faculty members shows prospective students and their families that we care enough about them to send faculty members, and more importantly, it allows them to get a better feeling for the people who will be teaching them. - AshrafAboulnaga - 10 Oct 2005

The booth labels.

They were totally inefficient, people thought that they were mere decorations of the wall, and we were hiding them. Other Universities had those tags (Math, Engineering, Science, ...) at once high, and in front of the informing people (rather than low and behind).-- JeremyBarbay - 06 Oct 2005

I think the whole thing needs redesign. I like the lack of a desk; Ryerson's people were behind desks, it looked alienating. But the display is a flat background. We need focal points out front, computer displays running images of the campus, of residence, of student activities. I know that adding "CS" to the Math label took a lot of work; no other department had this. But why just six faculty labels? People can read. Put department labels in, and make the height of the backdrop twice as much. -- PrabhakarRagde - 06 Oct 2005

Some comments about the design and layout of our space:

  • I liked the fact that we had no desks, so informal discussions were easier.
  • If (as we hope) brochures are being more widely distributed next year, we should not have them placed on desks or stands. They should be in the hands of the UW people (as the CS and Math brochures were this year). As such, the layout of our area should not include stands for brochures.
  • The back wall needs to be much higher than it was.
  • Have either one very large LCD display (like York) or several 17-20" LCD displays (like Carleton and many others) runnig slick slide shows of UW and why it is so great to be there.
  • Hand out trinkets and souvenirs. It would be best if we can give them something that they would use at school. U of T Engineering had a very well done "math cheat sheet" that they were handing out, with all the formulas students need in high school math and physics as well as U of T advertising. -- AshrafAboulnaga - 10 Oct 2005

Where do we direct our efforts

I had a sharp feeling of a waste of time and energy. Of the hundred or so students I saw, only about 3 had any interest at all in computer science (none in math ...). They all were interested in business, accounting, actuarial Sci etc. (On the other hand the only volunteer faculty at the math booth were CS people ...). So let alone feeling useless (any student or adminstrator around were way more useful to the visitors), the main lesson is very pessimistic- by the time these highschool students are shopping for a university they are already lost for us. There's no ear for our arguments about the beauty and richness of CS, neither is there an eye to read the nice articles about the great jobs waiting our graduates.

We have to focus on highschool outreach!


High school outreach is definitely a worthy effort, but there are things we can do at this fair. We need to stress the flexibility of Math, with a common first year. We need to point out that only certain programs require first year entry: CA, Bioinformatics. Others permit it (eg CS) but let you choose after first year also. We need to stress the breadth of the faculty, and the possibility of double majors -- most people haven't the imagination to even encompass a single major within Math. Why are they asking about CA and Act Sci? Because those are the only "math" careers they've ever heard of! We need a brochure, "Careers in the Mathematical Sciences", to put some other ideas in their heads. They haven't applied to programs yet. Math gives them the choice of Act Sci, CM, CS, etc, with time to choose. They don't need prior CS experience to join CS, and they can try out first-year CS and see if they like it.

-- PrabhakarRagde - 06 Oct 2005

My feedback

Here are my recommendations, based on what the students wanted:

1. Have the full UW brouchure, not the 1 page one. Many students wanted it... and most other schools had it. 2. Have a faculty brochure for every faculty... I had to tell people there were math ones but no other faculties/programs. 3. Make the faculty brochure available on some kindof display stand. I know you guys don't want people to just come and take them, but they come and ask for them anyways. The volunteers have to keep going back and getting more in a pile on their hands, then they get people asking for the brochures only anyways. 4. Have 2 Apple computers instead of 1 Apple and 1 compaq... it just makes it look more professional. 5. Have "student - 2nd year Computer Science" or "professor - Acturial Science" on the name tags. 6. Many many many students were interested in the CA programs and acturial science, but no one from those departments were available.

In response to what Shai said, in my personal opinion, we're not there to convince people interested in accounting or other programs to switch to computer science.. right? Aren't we there to give information to those interested so they can make an informed decision? Personally I had a great time, and I met tons of people interested in CS and other programs, and talked about many of waterloo's programs. Personally, if I went to the waterloo booth to ask questions about actuarial science, and the person started trying to convince me to look at CS.. I would be confused and not appreciate it.

We were distributing brochures in violation of university policy; with luck that will change. We need trinkets. Pink ties. Helium balloons. Plastic bags. It's silly, but effective. Did anyone go around and look at what other people were doing? I didn't, and I should have. It's a market; we need to compete. We can't do this in a vacuum. But, yeah, when we go, we commit to answering whatever questions are asked. If they aren't about CS, too bad. We can hand them a general Math brochure to get some other ideas into their heads, but that's about it.

I think we still should hand brochures out, because people will take one of everything, whereas we can direct them. We don't want them to grab paper and go away without talking to someone; it's the personal contact that can be effective. I did see people wandering in and looking for paper; I would say, "Can I answer any questions?" and most of the time, that would break the ice. If the brochures are there in a pile, we won't get that chance.

-- PrabhakarRagde - 06 Oct 2005

We need trinkets. Pink ties. Helium balloons. Plastic bags. It's silly, but effective.

I would go for more of a "fun" factor at the stand, but I am not sure if everybody would agree. One of the administrative people asked me to leave the stand when I tried to make a pink tie with a balloon, half an hour before the end of the last day of the fair, when most of us were idle and most highschool student were gone. If the university forbids us to distribute brochures, what will they say if we start handing baloons...

-- JeremyBarbay - 19 Oct 2005

Booth organization and faculty attendance

We deliberately tried to have a large faculty presence without regard for the actual "qualifications" of people. Clearly, many of us are not very capable of answering many of the typical questions, so I assume that we had faculty there to leave a good impression and show that we care. I believe that this can only work, if the booth is more structured, the structure is easy to understand, and the roles of different people are very clear. Otherwise, faculty will just come across as incompetent staffers and cannot fulfill their role. Beginning each conversation with "I am a professor in CS" also seems weird (to me).

Ideally, each visitor would first run into someone with a very broad knowledge and then, if necessary, referred to others with more specific knowledge. Without more structure, it does not make sense (and may even be harmful) to have lots of faculty attend such an event.

Martin Karsten - 07 Oct 2005

Also of possible interest

Information on UW Day
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Topic revision: r10 - 2005-10-19 - JeremyBarbay
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