Therapy dogs help students
hounded by stress
the university of Toronto Mississauga is
hosting a distinguished visitor and students
that have huddled around the top dog, tails
wagging, are learning a few new tricks.
A visit by St. John Ambulance therapy
dog Grace is one of the stress-busters organized by the office of student transition
during this year’s
exams. The golden retriever lies
on her back in the
lobby of the Instructional Centre, tongue
lolling and eyes half-closed. She yawns.
Two students scratch her stomach, one
takes photos with her cell phone and another
offers a treat. “I’ve never seen a dog like this –
have you checked her heartbeat?” asks a passerby. The crowd laughs.
Melanie Asselin needs this distraction.
She is a first-year forensic psychology student. Her program is very competitive, and
she knows she has to excel in her exams in
order to remain in it. “I’ve been a hermit in
my dorm for a week – I haven’t even had time
to go to the gym,” Ms. Asselin says. She adds
that she is having trouble sleeping, suffers
cold sweats and wakes up crying.
U of T’s executive director of health
and wellness, Janine Robb, is not surprised
by the outbreak of anxiety among students
like Ms. Asselin. “The stakes are really high
in exams,” Ms. Robb says. Especially for stu-
dents who need to score good grades to get
into graduate school or to land a coveted job.
Poor marks are also a blow to the self-esteem
of students used to acing high school classes.
Luckily, the dog therapy program,
which began at Western University over a decade ago and now operates on more than 50
percent of Canadian campuses, counteracts
this tailspin. Studies have shown that dogs
are calming for many people – heart rates,
blood pressure, and even stress hormones
all drop in the presence of the animal, says
University of Guelph veterinary professor
Lee Niel. Gazing into a dog’s eyes can cause
oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) to be released in both humans and their helpmates.
And, unlike the human species, dogs refrain
from judgment. “They have no expectations,”
says Dr. Niel.
Ms. Asselin says she feels comforted
by her new friend. “She makes me feel
warm inside.” The student is even breathing easier after the pooch pause. “I have a
greater motivation to get through the day.”
She sips her coffee, smiles and strides away.
– vivien fellegi
Health and wellness
“Unlike humans, dogs refrain
from judgment. They have
Network connects academics with public servants
Hungry for Knowledge, Nov. 2016, a survey of 4,013 students
at five Canadian universities, found many suffer from “limited or
inadequate access to food due to insufficient finances.”
Nearly two in five ( 39 percent) of students
surveyed experienced some degree of food
insecurity in the past year.
pretty soon, you might be accepting a “
colleague request” from the Government of Canada.
The federal government has launched a digital
networking platform called GCcollab.ca, a
site it’s pitching as an easy way for academics
and students to connect and collaborate with
Canada’s public service.
The website is built off GCconnex, an
open source communication platform government employees have been using internally for about six years. The new site includes
a space for creating LinkedIn-like profiles, a
Facebook-style newsfeed and an events calendar. Like its predecessor, GCcollab’s backbone is its groups function, says Jeff Outram,
the lead analyst overseeing GCcollab for the
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
The groups feature enables registered
users to move away from email by joining
common interest groups – open or private
– where members can post comments and
discussion points, ask questions and request
feedback, and share digital resources.
According to Mr. Outram, this “
innovation project” encourages informal networking between the public service and government stakeholders. Recently, it’s been made
accessible to public servants at the provincial
and territorial levels.
As of December 2016, nearly 300 of the
platform’s 800 registered users were from
academia. – natalie samson
U of T students relax
with a therapy dog from
St. John Ambulance.