What is The In Their Shoes Project and why am I doing this?
I am the Vice Provost, Students at Ryerson University – this is a senior administrative position with responsibility for Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment, Registrarial Services, Student Affairs and Athletics. I have spent the last 25 years working on university campuses in some role related to student support and student engagement. In this role the regular contact that I have with students is often limited to two specific groups of students.
The first group includes the leaders and award winners – those who get involved on campus, lead their student associations and governments, represent students on boards and committees, and win competitions and academic awards. This is also the group of students that every other senior administrator at the university knows and wants to interact with, so my time with these folks is sometimes limited given their many commitments and the access they have to the President, Vice Presidents and Deans.
The second group includes the students who are struggling in some way – having financial struggles, having a mental health crisis, having gotten into trouble either academically or with respect to one of the student codes of conduct. This is the group that I probably interact with or about the most. My staff and I are called into all manner of concerns and issues and we attempt to support finding solutions that will assist these students.
What’s missing is the opportunity to have meaningful interaction and engagement with the average student who is not in crisis and who is not serving in a leadership role and meeting with other university leaders. I attend lots of events … orientation events, street fairs, receptions and sporting events but it can be challenging to get beyond some superficial chit chat in these settings. I needed a plan for engaging with students in a different way. Hence The In Their Shoes Project was born. I have decided that along with my day to day work responsibilities, I will always have an activity on the books that puts me side by side with students experiencing what they are experiencing on campus, learning about who they are, what they do and what they think about their experiences.
I also plan to share what I am learning with others through interviews with students, videos of our interaction and work together, photographs and blog entries. I am very excited about this project and I hope that you will join me in learning about the experiences of some of our students and my experience along-side them.
My name is Heather Lane Vetere and I am the Vice Provost, Students at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. I have been in this role since 2008. I feel fortunate to have chosen a career that allows me to interact with, support and learn from young bright talented students. I have studied at the University of Guelph and Bowling Green State University in Ohio and have worked at the University of Guelph and the University of Toronto. I grew up in the Niagara Region and I share my home with my husband and two dogs.
You can follow me on Twitter @hlv1.
Future Activity Ideas for me
If you are a Ryerson student or department and would like to pitch an activity idea that I can partake in for The In Their Shoes Project, send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.