March 30, 2017 | Volunteer & Awards

Keep growing and share everything

Adam Kuhn receives a 2017 Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award

Adam Kuhn receives a 2017 Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award

Institutions all across North America are using staff and student programming created at U of T by Adam Kuhn, Director of Student and Campus Community Development. But he’s not sure who they are. “At the end of a conference session, people come up and ask if they can use our materials and I just say go for it!” he laughs. “Because one of our office’s values is: share everything.”

Kuhn lives by this motto. For his many outstanding contributions to student services, including supporting fellow staff and ensuring student internships provide a valuable learning experience, Kuhn (MEd 2015) has been named one of this year’s two recipients of the Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award.

“It feels weird to be singled out for this,” Kuhn admits, “because this job is highly collaborative. Everything is very much reliant on working with the other amazingly talented people on my team, or across the University.” But that sense of partnership is among his best qualities, his peers say. He’s always helping others be better. For example, Kuhn, who has been at U of T since 2013, recently developed a more structured system for welcoming new colleagues to the Student Life team.

“We have a lot of turnover,” he explains, “with people moving on to new jobs or covering leaves. So I knew that I needed to develop a system to help people hit the ground running.” He wrote a brief welcome manual about the department’s goals and schedule, and included information about students and best practices for serving them well.

This kind of thoughtful creativity also inspired Kuhn to add more structure to the Student Life internship program. Initially, the program focused on having each intern complete a project. Kuhn added requirements to meet with U of T staff and complete written reflections about the students’ career trajectory.

“They still do their capstone project, he says, “but we’re trying to frame it so that they’re setting goals that are relevant to them. They have ongoing coaching from their supervisor, they do informational interviews with areas they are interested in, such as multi-faith, or health and wellness. And they do a site visit to another institution to compare notes. I think we’ve been able to create a really robust learning experience. I’m really proud of it.”

Kuhn shares with his peers in the field as well, through his podcast, RelaySA. It’s available on both SoundCloud and iTunes. “In student affairs,” he says, “we keep talking about how we need to tell our stories more. So I interview people at other institutions. I have a catchy theme song that my good friend Adrian Ross wrote, and I’ve done two six-episode seasons.

“It’s pretty awesome! People are participating from British Columbia all the way to the east coast. I thought maybe I’d get one or two listeners, or a few other student affairs geeks like me – but I think our most popular episode has 600 listens. I’m very pleased how that’s turned out.”

Kuhn graduated from OISE in 2015 and recently started his PhD. “All of our programs are geared toward helping students grow and develop,” he says, “and so we also want to make sure that we’re following that for ourselves.” He created a professional development document to help his colleagues take stock, and the team is encouraged to share after they’ve attended a new course or conference.

For example, Kuhn and colleague Erin Clifford developed the Student Experience Mentorship Program, a unique offering that reverses the usual mentoring relationships by having first-year students mentor faculty and staff.

“My mentor, Jessica, showed me where she eats on campus, and we did activities together at Hart House,” he says. “Now, when we’re thinking about programs and service delivery, I see more clearly what students might be interested in, or what they need. How they prioritize their time. It’s phenomenal, and I wish every faculty member and every staff person had a chance to participate in this program. We need to constantly learn and grow in order to be effective in our roles.”

The Jill Matus Excellence in Student Services Award was established in recognition of Professor Jill Matus’ exemplary service to the University of Toronto, spanning seven years as Vice-Provost, Students and Vice-Provost, Students and First-Entry Divisions. Two awards are presented each year under the banner of the Awards of Excellence, a program recognizing the outstanding members of the University of Toronto community who have made rich and meaningful contributions to the University, their communities and to the world.

Alumni Relations within the Division of University Advancement is the steward of the Awards of Excellence program on behalf of the University of Toronto Alumni Association, and co-ordinates the vital contributions of other University stakeholder groups toward this prestigious award program.

Adam Kuhn and the other 2017 Awards of Excellence recipients will be honoured at a recognition event on April 27.

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