Welcome to our special combined mailing of the MAC Parent Email Newsletter & The Parents' Digest.
Learning About Us and Our Community Through Service
Imagine hearing this from your child after reading week …“(It was a) Mind-blowing experience. Affected me in a profound way that I am trying as hard as I can to incorporate into everything I do now.”
Now, imagine that this was in response to your child spending their reading week break in February volunteering and learning about poverty and homelessness. Believe it or not, this was the response from many of the 57 individuals who participated in the 2006 Service Learning Reading Week Series.
Service Learning combines intentional learning objectives with community service and facilitated reflection. The 2006 immersion experiences took place in Vancouver, Louisiana and Hamilton this past winter.
Building on the success from the program last year, we are offering a number of service learning opportunities for McMaster students for the 2007 Reading Week. The series will focus on learning about the complex issues of poverty and the human condition and will engage up to 120 individuals in five separate experiences of community service. The experiences for Reading Week 2007 involve the following:
- Cuernavaca, Mexico - 90 miles outside of Mexico City our group of 20 will be working with Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development. During their time there the group will work in rural regions with Habitat for Humanity and Women's Recycling Initiative. This project will examine poverty and the human condition in the Latin American Context.
- Louisiana, USA- 60 miles outside of New Orleans our group of 20 will be working with Habitat for Humanity. The focus of this project is on continued clean up and rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. This project will examine poverty and the homelessness in a natural disaster context.
- Vancouver, BC - In the downtown core of Vancouver our group of 20 will be working with Quest Outreach Society, an agency that focuses on a zero waste goal. This agency salvages food from a variety of sources and redistributes it to agencies that are able to make use of it. This project will examine poverty and hunger in a Canadian urban setting.
- Eastern Canada -A group of 20 will be working with agencies dedicated to the eradication of poverty. This roject will look at the unique factors of poverty in Eastern Canada.
- Hamilton, ON- In our home community of Hamilton our group of 20 will include a number of students from the University of Alberta. Together with McMaster students this group will work with a number of agencies within our community that deal with the issues of poverty and the human condition on a daily basis. This group will identify on-going volunteer and involvement opportunities for all reading week service-learning participants.
Students who are interested in participating in a 'mind-blowing' experience such as this should check out opportunities at http://servicelearning.mcmaster.ca .
Reflections - The First Few Weeks
Campus is a busy place these days with December exams quickly approaching! We've asked four students to share with us their reflections on the first few weeks of school.
Helen Wilson, First Year Social Sciences
I must admit that the first few weeks of first year university were rather overwhelming. Welcome Week was an adventure in itself. The first event I attended during Welcome Week was the Bed Races. I thought this was extremely entertaining because the people who were taking part in the bed races were so absorbed in the race that they didn't care if their outfit was falling apart, or their bed was breaking down. All the people involved in Welcome Week were extremely friendly and helpful. For example, I couldn't find my First Year Experience bag of goodies, so I asked a SOCS representative for some help. Not one but three people came with me to help find the goodie bag. They accompanied me with singing as well.
As soon as Welcome Week was over, we jumped right in to school work. My first class was psychology. Interestingly, this class delivered via video. This was a big change from high school but I soon became adjusted to it. I met Dr. Day in person for the first; he seems like a nice man. Going from high school to university is quite a change. So much more independence, expectation, and responsibility for making sure you cover all the required material even if the lecture does not. I believe that at my high school we were definitely spoon-fed our grades comparing the amount of work in university and high school. This doesn't mean I would rather be back in high school; university is a whole new chapter in my life that I have yet to accomplish. The independence and responsibility is healthy for a developing adult like myself because it teaches me how to create my own positive habits and work for my achievements. So far, university has been awesome!
Raakhee Patel, Second Year Honours Biology & Psychology
These past few months have not only been a whirlwind of activity, but also have provided me with so much insight and opportunity for reflection on different aspects of university life. At the start of this year, although I was ecstatic about surviving my first year of university, I began to realize that I was surrounded by other second year students who had already mapped out their life's goals, whereas I was unsure about the next three weeks of midterms, let alone what would happen during the next three years of university.
While my friends were already planning for their professional school exams, I attempted to not start panicking about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I began to wonder whether I was in the right program, taking the right courses, volunteering enough, researching possible career options properly, and so forth. Despite the hard work that I was putting into all my courses, I had this unsettling feeling of being unfocused and disoriented about where to go from here.
When school started, in order to make up for lost time in my first year, I began to get involved with different activities that interested me such as volunteering as a tutor. I became much more out-going and really started to enjoy university as a whole, rather than just constantly focusing on my academics. Even though there's a lot more required of me as a student, I feel more in control of maintaining a good balance between academics and other things that I enjoy-something which has drastically changed since my first year.
Although I'm still not completely sure about what I want to do after my undergraduate degree, I'm not as apprehensive about the whole process either. With the intention to always keep an open mind, I am definitely looking forward to the adventure and learning experience that I'm sure the next three years will be.
Tyler Lane, Third Year Honours Commerce
As a third year student at McMaster there are many new challenges and decisions that I face which are quite different from the concerns I had in my first two years. In first and second year, academics almost seemed secondary to social life and getting involved. Especially in first year, I found that making friends, meeting new people and finding ways to get involved in things that interest me took up a lot of my time. For me, first and second year were about trying new things and finding out what I really enjoy doing. One other thing that also stands out about the first half of university was that it often seemed as though my peers, and myself included, had very poor time management skills. At times it was almost as if it was a competition to see who could study the least and still get a decent grade.
Being in third year, my attitude and time management skills have definitely changed. I now see the relevance of many of the classes I took in the last two years. My concerns now are more about considering what field of study I want to focus on and preparing myself for a career after graduation. I have definitely found what interests me and I'm taking on leadership roles in these areas. I am also heavily considering the option of internship after this year. Most of all, I have learned that although at times it feels as though some classes are pointless, they really do have real-life value. My focus is now on obtaining as much knowledge from my classes as possible because I know for a fact that it will be very important to future career opportunities.
Caroline Gdyczynski, Fourth Year Honours Communication Studies and Multimedia
As a fourth year student my mind frame in September and October has been much different than in past years. Not only did I have all the concerns of previous years such as classes and assignments, my thoughts now consisted of what my long-term goals would be; would I be going to grad school, would I look into other Bachelor Programs to compliment my current degree, or would I focus on getting a job directly after graduation?
Many of the deadlines for bursaries and scholarships are in October, which means having to make these important decisions very quickly. Also, I did not spend a lot of time prior to fourth year discussing the options about furthering my education, which made these decisions even more difficult.
Another of my main concerns was my involvement within the school. The importance of being involved had grown over the years, and for the first time, I realized that my involvement began to take a strain on my academics. I was involved in so many things that, at times I was finding it difficult to prioritize especially since many of these commitments were beneficial to my multimedia portfolio.
That being said, my academic success still remains at the forefront of my thoughts; fourth year becomes a time where you realize what you need to get where you're going. It can be a quite stressful time since success in all areas, whether it is academic or extracurricular, is critical to my overall personal achievement.
Learning to live and get along with people you do not know very well can be one of the greatest challenges your student will face while at McMaster. Top three things parents can do to help their child address a roommate conflict:
1) Encourage your son or daughter to first talk to their roommate about the situation. If this doesn't help, encourage them to access their Community Advisor to help address the roommate concern. The Residence Life staff complete extensive training in mediation and conflict resolution and are in place to help students work through these situations.
2) Remember that there are two sides to every story. Be supportive of your son or daughter with their frustrations but encourage them to try and look at things from the roommate's point of view as well.
3) Don't try to solve your son or daughter's roommate concern. While getting involved may be a strong urge for you as a parent, this will not be beneficial in the long run. It is important for them to discover solutions on their own and develop life skills around compromise, community living, and communication. Help your student to verbalize what the middle ground is. Relationships involve give and take.
When it comes to extra-curricular activities at Mac, students have a wide variety of choices. There are over 230 clubs at McMaster who fall under one of the following categories: academic clubs, athletics & recreational clubs, cultural clubs, religious clubs and social issues clubs. With so much diversity and so many options, there is something for everyone!
This year, your son or daughter likely attended Clubsfest I during Welcome Week. Clubsfest I drew over 280 on and off-campus organizations this year. Clubsfest provides an opportunity for students to join a club or learn about what Hamilton and McMaster has to offer. Joining a club is a great way to connect with other students and network with those who enjoy similar interests. With so much to see and do during Welcome Week, joining a club may be last on the list of things to do. Encourage your son or daughter to attend Clubsfest II on Friday January, 19 th 2007 . This event will be taking place in the MUSC atrium and showcase over 50 new and returning clubs.
Click here to for a list of clubs on campus http://www.msu.mcmaster.ca/clubs/listings.php
Signing up for a credit card is a MAJOR decision. Students must be informed prior to making this decision. Talk to your children and caution them regarding credit cards and the idea of purchasing items or services on credit.
Be sure to explain the cost of paying back with interest and help them to realize that CREDIT CARDS REPRESENT ADDITIONAL DEBT...NOT AN EXTRA INCOME SOURCE.
Improper use of credit will have major consequences and will impact an individual's future financial status. Consider all of the pros & cons before making the decision to purchase with credit.
MAY help to establish a GOOD credit rating.
Can easily establish a BAD credit rating if not used wisely!
Useful in an emergency situation.
High interest payments.
Often required to reserve an item or service (tickets, hotels, etc.) or to make online purchases.
Pay more $ for items if full balance not paid by due date.
May have hidden fees attached (annual usage fees, insurance premiums, late fees etc.)
Increased debt load.
Added worry & responsibility if stolen.
Promotes the urge to impulse buy, overspend and spend money that you really don't have.
Too much available credit looks bad on your credit report! (You appear to be CREDIT HUNGRY if you apply for multiple credit cards.)
As you can see from the above chart, there are far more CONS than PROS when it comes to CREDIT cards.
Once a student makes the decision to apply for a credit card, follow these important tips...
- Apply only for ONE nationally recognized card. This is all that is needed. Independent cards offered by many major department stores usually bear much higher interest rates!
- Read and understand the cardholder agreement for which you are signing. Understand all obligations and meet all of the responsibilities.
- Shop around. Don't jump at the first card you see. Even with major credit cards, there are many different lenders out there! Look for cards offering the lowest interest rates, low or NO annual fees, increased grace period, or other benefits (such as points programs or warranties).
- Carefully track all monthly expenditures and payments. Reconcile statements to ensure all charges are legitimate and payments are properly reflected. Report discrepancies immediately.
- Minimize or eliminate interest charges by paying bills in full on or before due date.
- Avoid impulse buying. If you don't absolutely need the item, DON'T use credit to get it.
Identity Theft.What is it? What Can I do About It?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or consent to commit a crime, such as fraud or theft.
Identity thieves steal key pieces of personal information-either physically or in other ways, without your knowledge-and use it to impersonate you and commit crimes in your name.
In addition to names, addresses and phone numbers, thieves look for:
- social insurance numbers
- driver's licence numbers
- credit card and banking information
- bank cards
- calling cards
- birth certificates
Identity thieves can manipulate your information and invade your personal and financial life. They can use stolen identities to conduct spending sprees, open new bank accounts, divert mail, apply for loans, credit cards and social benefits, rent apartments and even commit more serious crimes.
How can an identity thief get my personal information?
Identity thieves may get your personal information by:
- Removing mail from your mailbox or fraudulently redirecting your mail.
- Stealing personal and private information from wallets, purses, mail, your home, vehicle, computer, and websites you've visited or e-mails you've sent.
- Retrieving personal information in your garbage or recycling bin by "dumpster diving".
- Posing as a creditor, landlord or employer to get a copy of your credit report or access to your personal information from other confidential sources.
- Tampering with automated banking machines (ABMs) and point of sale terminals, enabling thieves to read your debit or credit card number and personal identification number (PIN).
- Searching public sources, such as newspapers (obituaries), phone books, and records open to the public (professional certifications).
- Buying the information from a dishonest employee working where personal and/or financial information is stored.
How can you protect yourself?
- When you are asked to provide personal information, ask how it will be used, why it is needed, who will be sharing it and how it will be safeguarded.
- Be particularly careful about your SIN - leave it in a secure place. Don't carry it with you unless you know that you will need it. (You do need it to pick up your OSAP!) and only give it out when absolutely necessary.
- Pay attention to your billing cycle. If credit card or utility bills fail to arrive, contact the companies to ensure that they have not been illicitly redirected.
- Notify creditors immediately if your identification or credit cards are lost or stolen.
- Review your credit history with a credit-checking agency like Equifax or TransUnion Canada once a year to ensure it doesn't include activities you haven't authorized.
- Key in personal identification numbers privately when you use direct purchase terminals, bank machines, or telephones.
- Be careful what you throw out! Burn or shred personal financial information such as statements, credit card offers, receipts, insurance forms, etc.
What do I do if I become a victim of Identity Theft?
- File a Police Report immediately. Ask for a copy of the police report so that you can provide proof of the theft to the organizations that you will have to contact later.
- Place Fraud Alerts on Your Credit Report by contacting Canada's two national credit reporting agencies, TransUnion Canada and Equifax Canada . Ask that creditors be notified to call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing accounts.
- Contact each financial institution, credit card issuer or other company that provided the identity thief with unauthorized credit, money, goods or services to discuss and sort matters out.
- If your credit cards or government-issued documents (such as driver's licence, birth certificate or passport) have been lost or stolen, notify the issuing authority immediately to have the document cancelled and a new one issued. Apply for New or Replacement identification.
- Contact Canada Post if you suspect that someone is diverting your mail.
- If you suspect that someone has been using your SIN to get a job, or that your SIN has been compromised in some other way, contact Human Resources Development Canada
For more information about Identity Theft, visit the Government of Canada's SafeCanada.ca website. http://www.safecanada.ca/identitytheft_e.asp