Today we had a chat with Sarah Fuchs, Senior Policy Analyst.
What’s your role at ONCAT?
My role as Senior Policy Analyst is to look at how ONCAT’s transfer work fits within Ontario’s broader postsecondary education policy landscape as well as what we can learn from transfer policy in other jurisdictions. A key aspect of my job is liaising with my policy counterparts at the Ministry of Colleges and Universities and preparing our quarterly and annual reports on ONCAT’s deliverables and achievements.
What did you do before joining the organization? And what experience did you have with postsecondary transfer prior to working here?
Before getting into policy work, I taught in the General Arts and Science program at Humber College, which prepares students for other programs at college or for degree studies at Humber or at a university. One of the courses I taught supported students in researching their career and educational goals and had a one-on-one advising component. There was an assignment where students would identify the GPA requirements of the program they wished to apply to, and then we would meet to discuss their midterm and final marks and make sure they were on track to achieve their goals. While I was not specifically doing transfer advising, it did come up for some students.
How does your work advance ONCAT’s mission to improve transfer students’ experiences in Ontario? And why does ONCAT’s mission resonate with you?
Formal and informal policies at the provincial and institutional level can have all sorts of intended and unintended impacts on transfer students’ experiences. I work in collaboration with my colleagues and our sector partners to identify best practices for a transparent, consistent, and seamless transfer process for students. My experience teaching students in the college sector and encountering the challenges and barriers they navigated continues to bring meaning to the system-level work I do at ONCAT.
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 am sure that most postsecondary institutions consider student success a priority, and there are still improvements needed to ensure transfer students graduate in a reasonable time and avoid the accumulation of excess credits. Furthermore, with the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, students may need greater flexibility and accessibility to continue their education, including more options to transfer credits between programs and institutions.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about postsecondary education—or student transfer—since starting your work at ONCAT?
One thing that surprised me is that it can be more difficult to receive transfer credit when moving from a university to a college than the other way around. Historically, this was less of a system priority because it was assumed that most students would be transferring from college to university. However, many students do transfer from university to college, and as our labour market continues to change in rapid and often unpredictable ways, we need to address gaps in student mobility across the system.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Back when social gatherings were a thing, telling people I work at the Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer was a bit of a mouthful.
If you could give any advice to yourself as a student, what would you say?
Say hello to your friendly disciplinary research librarian! They are such an amazing—and often untapped—student resource.
Just for fun …
What’s your go-to restaurant or recipe?
I like The Depanneur—they host pop-up events to showcase culinary talent in Toronto.
What’s the first place you would want to travel to in a post-pandemic world?
I would love to visit my brother in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and my sister in Chicago.
Cats or dogs?
Love both, but I do have a greyhound!
Any great books or movies you’ve enjoyed recently and want to recommend?