Today we had a chat with Andrew Wilson, Transfer and Technology Director
What’s your role at ONCAT?
My title is Transfer and Technology Director, which explains my role in detail, does it not? My responsibilities fall primarily with the development and maintenance of ONTransfer.ca, including oversight of the stakeholder relations required to support its function. The role is not confined to ONTransfer.ca, though, as I interact with many others in the office including, but not limited to, support for grants, stakeholder relations, research, and IT operations.
What did you do before joining the organization? And what experience did you have with postsecondary transfer prior to working here?
Prior to joining ONCAT, I spent over 20 years at York University, first as a student and then as a staff member. My initial role, as a work-study student, was in the student advising office, supporting student intake; upon graduation, I slowly migrated into more administrative roles, bouncing between three Faculties and the Office of the University Registrar. For the last seven years, I was directly responsible for the assessment of students identified as transfer credit eligible during the admission process. Due to York’s history as a transfer-friendly institution, the role managed 10 unionized staff members that supported the centralized transfer credit assessment and transitional supports for admitted students. Additionally, the role also provided oversight for York’s centralized condition-clearing process along with support for the Faculty of Graduate Studies adjudication process of graduate applications.
How does your work advance ONCAT’s mission to improve transfer students’ experiences in Ontario? And why does ONCAT’s mission resonate with you?
ONCAT’s mission directly aligns with my previous experiences at York, but on a much larger scale. Due to operational constraints and multiple system priorities at an institution, there was simply not enough bandwidth in the technical services team to be able to tackle all the technical improvements I would have liked. This role at ONCAT has allowed me to expand the scope of my technical solutions based on who will be using the system (i.e., moving from a single institution to all publicly funded colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutions in the province). The scale has allowed me to prioritize potential improvements that could benefit the entire system based on economies of scale processes while leaving some processes autonomous to institutions that are better positioned to tactical local transfer system supports. Additionally, this position has given me the opportunity to shift the ONTransfer.ca service paradigm. This shift to a more engaged approach is intended to better support institutions so that they can support their students more effectively.
Transfer students make up a relatively small amount of the Ontario postsecondary student population—approximately 6-9%. Why do you think postsecondary institutions should still focus on improving transfer student experiences?
I think it is amazing that there is even that much transfer based on the historic and purposeful design of the provincial higher education system (i.e., a system designed to operate in silos rather than as a collaboration). The system collaboration has increased dramatically, but that doesn’t really get at the heart of the question. I believe that, at its core, this question is best answered by thinking about the core purpose of postsecondary education: to provide higher education to the populous while at the same time minimizing associated costs for students.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about postsecondary education—or student transfer—since starting your work at ONCAT?
I’ve been engaged with this office for several years due to my previous work at York, so what I found interesting was how similar the transfer credit experiences were for my transfer student colleagues. While our institutions were all slightly different, with unique cultures, governances, and policies, the people and their commitment to transfer students has been and continues to be inspiring.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Honestly, I do not find the job challenging. Obviously, there are certain aspects (human resources, finance, etc.) that are a little more tedious due to compliance and process requirements, but overall, I love my job and the work I do.
If you could give any advice to yourself as a student, what would you say?
Be yourself, trust your instincts, but most importantly, enjoy the ride.
Just for fun …
What’s your go-to restaurant or recipe?
My go-to restaurant is typically a local pub, but my food choices can vary greatly.
What’s the first place you would want to travel to in a post-pandemic world?
Wouldn’t mind a long road-trip to the Canadian Maritimes, but at this point I’d settle for an all-inclusive family-friendly beach resort or a week-long stay at Galaxy’s Edge in Florida!
Cats or dogs?
While I’m allergic to both, the cat allergy is much worse. That said, I grew up with and prefer dogs.
Any great books or movies you’ve enjoyed recently and want to recommend?
During the pandemic, my wife and I have introduced our favourite movies to our kids including, but not limited to, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars (including The Mandalorian).