Meet the ON-Cats is a recurring interview series profiling ONCAT’s A-team of transfer experts and aficionados. Grab a beverage, pull up a chair, and get to know the team that’s helping to reduce barriers for students looking to transfer between colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutes across Ontario.
What’s your role at ONCAT?
As the data analyst at ONCAT, I assist with the data and decision-making needs of ONCAT’s both internal and external stakeholders by establishing ONCAT’s report delivery framework. Recently, I have been working on the linkage between the postsecondary curriculum and course-to-course equivalencies in three overarching disciplines (Accounting, Marketing, and Social Work), trying to assess the current transferability of these three disciplines based on available data.
What did you do before joining the organization? And what experience did you have with postsecondary transfer prior to working here?
I was, and still am a Ph.D. candidate in Critical Policy, Equity, and Leadership Studies at Western University. Before my Ph.D. journey, I worked as a guidance counsellor at a private high school. In a more liberal definition of “transfer”, my intercultural learning experience from China to Canada really helps me to understand the experience of mobility students. For example, the cultural shock, acculturation, learning barriers, communication with faculty and staff, etc.
How does your work advance ONCAT’s mission to improve transfer students’ experiences in Ontario? And why does ONCAT’s mission resonate with you?
An example would be my current project of linking the postsecondary curriculum with the course-to-course database. By linking them together, I am able to find the gaps/discrepancies in equivalencies, then bring it to the discipline steering committee, and eventually to faculty members. They may be able to evaluate the problems and refine their curriculum so that students can transfer with more credits awarded from the previous study. One of the biggest motivations for working at ONCAT comes from its value of easing students’ transfer experience and improving their overall learning experience in higher education. It aligns with my research values.
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?
6-9% is a substantial proportion for a marginalized group. Because transfer students are not usually on the radar of policies that improve the student learning experience, our work sheds light on the systematic issues and (hopefully) makes a difference.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about postsecondary education—or student transfer—since starting your work at ONCAT?
It is definitely more complicated than I thought. I didn’t know there was such a robust database that supports our work and institutional research. There is a long way to go for revolutionary change, but each baby step counts!
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
I often get dragged into data issues and lose track of time. I’m learning to prioritize our main purpose of analysis, and accept “good enough” data at a certain point. I also find that less manual work can improve data consistency and validity.
If you could give any advice to yourself as a student, what would you say?
I know you won’t listen to your parents or guidance/career counselor, but at least try to understand where they are coming from, it could save you years! On the other side, if you are determined about what you want to do and able to take full responsibility, I say go for it! Doesn’t it sound contradicting? Sometimes there are no right or wrong decisions, it’s only about life choices that lead to different paths.
Just for fun …
What’s your go-to restaurant or recipe?
What’s the first place you would want to travel to in a post-pandemic world?
I would love to visit Europe, especially France for the historical sites and museums.
Cats or dogs?
Absolutely dogs, I have a Husky & Akita mix called Coco.
Any great books or movies you’ve enjoyed recently and want to recommend?
Stay tuned for more interviews in our upcoming newsletters. To learn more about our team and how we’re working to remove barriers to postsecondary transfer in Ontario, visit https://oncat.ca/en/about-us.