With pandemic closures and lower student engagement, the International Student Experience team at the University of Waterloo’s Student Success Office was feeling the pressure of delivering high impact programs. In November 2020, they took a chance and incorporated a pen pal component into UWinterloo; a program to help international students feel connected to Canada and to other Waterloo Warriors during the month of December. They launched the pilot project with a modest goal of reaching 100 student participants and were blown away to see 600 people sign up! The new approach helped the team realize their goal of connecting students in a brand-new way and has continued to do so for the past year and a half – making pen-pals a re-emerging tactic for student engagement at Waterloo and, in our opinion, a pandemic comeback story.

This presentation will share:

  • Best practices and lessons learned from a coordination and communications perspective
  • Why we believe the program was successful and is not a passing fad
  • How we leveraged the pen pal program model across other initiatives to connect students across faculties and new student transition
  • How the program has evolved as the pandemic has shifted and the University has adapted to a hybrid service model