Fanshawe signs memorandum to help lift barriers for military-connected students

A Canadian flag flying on a pole CREDIT: SHAHBAZ PAR ABDOLMALEKI ASL

On April 11, Fanshawe College signed a memorandum of understanding to offer barrier-free education and local access to program completion. It was signed in partnership with Georgian, Humber, Lambton, and Loyalist colleges.

“This memorandum is the first of its kind in post-secondary, especially in Ontario,” said Darlene O’Neill, lead administrator for the military-connected college at Fanshawe. “It basically says we commit to supporting military-connected learners to be successful in as many ways as possible.”

The college will be working towards implementing initiatives such as transferring 100 per cent of course credits while recognizing distinct college requirements, streamlining the enrolment process between institutions, and sharing military-affiliated prior learning and assessment recognition practices to support institutional consistency.

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“For current and future military-connected students that are still serving and could be posted [somewhere else], this will absolutely serve them because they can go to another institution in Ontario, one of these five institutes, and it will be a seamless transfer for them.”

O’Neill said she understands there are many challenges military-connected students face, like their children having to be reschooled in different areas, partners needing to give up their current job and find a new one, taking teenagers away from their friends, etc.

“What we’re trying to do is make education less of a stress than all of the other stresses that pile on.”

Also available to students is a button that allows them to self-identify as a military-connected learner on the Ontario Colleges Application System. By clicking that button, the new school they are transferring to or applying to will have all the necessary information to better serve them. O’Neill said this feature will better allow them to tailor their supports. The button was supported by Darryl Cathcart, who is a retired Canadian Armed Forces soldier and the founder of Release Point Education. Cathcart also organized the memorandum of understanding.

“We’ve been working with Release Point Education since 2019 and we were the first self-identified military-connected campus in Canada. It was really important that we participate in this memorandum of understanding to clearly demonstrate our support for military-connected learners.”

O’Neill briefed the other colleges on the social and academic supports available at Fanshawe. She said as a leader in the area, the college felt it was important to partake.

“This is a really wonderful way to continue developing tailored academic, student services, and social support for our military-connected students. I think it speaks very loudly to the commitment of our post-secondary sector in Ontario Colleges to support and to recognize the challenges and barriers that sometimes come with being a military connected person.”

The memorandum of understanding was signed on April 11 to get ahead of the upcoming military postings. Typically, posting season begins at the end of April, once the school year is completed.