Samantha Freeman-Atwood and Richard Rayman

Q & A: Samantha Freeman-Atwood and Richard Rayman

The new academic school year is officially underway!  We sat down with Registrar Samantha Freeman-Atwood and Director of Student Life, Richard Rayman, who spoke to us about the year ahead.


Are there any Initiatives or changes that you began last year that you will continue working on this year?

SFA:  We’re once again hiring three student ambassadors. These three student ambassadors will help out at recruitment events, engagement events — they will spread the cheer and help out fellow students. And they will help create a community of wellness. The student ambassadors really help us connect with students. We’re not on the ground touching each one, but they are. Next year I hope to hire four: one from each year.

RR: For over seven years now the biomedical class at Ryerson University has interest in Dentistry. I’ve been going for years to give recruitment talks. For a long time I’d go by myself, and then I asked students to join me. This year, Samantha and the student ambassadors will also be there.

There’s also an initiative that we started last year: informal lunches with the first year DDS in the student life office. Sometimes there were eight students, sometimes 12. The first time we had lunch I said to them, “We can talk about anything, but let’s not talk about Dentistry.” We would order pizza and the students would have an opportunity to talk to upper year students, instructors and staff. They could ask questions about school protocols ― even difficult patient cases. I learned so much about them. These students are so talented.

The lunches will be starting up again soon.


Are there any new initiatives for this year? Or new goals of your offices?

SFA: I’m working on accommodations, and formalizing the accommodations processes for the Faculty, so that I can act as a liaison between the campus and here. Students don’t always know there is so much help they can get, so many resources they can access. Sometimes it’s a matter of sitting down and having a conversation, finding out what their needs are. Once those students are connected, they start to flourish.

I’m also looking at changing the scheduling software used at the Faculty. Our objective is to meet students’ needs better, by simplifying the process. The correct scheduling software can literally talk to axiUm and assign scheduled patients into the correct dental chairs to free up administrative assignments. This improvement is part of a long-term plan of working towards digital dentistry. I’m purposely looking at scheduling with a future-oriented perspective.


What is your favourite part of the job?

SFA: I love connecting with the students. Whatever it might be – from helping them to achieve their wins or overcoming their struggles. It’s such an uplifting endeavor. And to do this within such an incredible school is a privilege.

RR: Really, I’m the lucky person to have this job because I get to be in the clinic three days a week, and in my role as director of student life I get to learn a lot about the students.


In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges new students encounter as they enter the Faculty?

SFA: It's that transition. As the Dean says in his introduction to the students, they are about to develop a different skill set; it’s a transition of their skills. Sometimes they don’t realize that transition is difficult, because they’re growing.

And the next challenge is looking after themselves. Students are so worried about time management — but if they don’t have enough energy they can’t perform. I am always after them to manage their energy.

RR:  The day-to-day stresses of being a dentist. And when the new students get to DDS 3 and 4 the stress is from the clinical program. The students have to achieve their core competencies in order to graduate, and there are the Board exams, and CCP. Maybe more will come out of our wellness initiatives [to help alleviate the stress], but a little stress is good! Wellness is huge, and I think we’ve done more in the past couple of years than we’ve ever done.


How do the Student Services Office and Student Life Office work together?

RR: The students are in a wonderful place. Samantha and I work closely as a team.

SFA: Sometimes the two of us act like connectors. We keep the lines of communication open and we share all of the information that needs to be shared openly. We triage relevant issues that come up. We are one team under the vice dean education, Jim Lai. We try to touch base once a day, but we also have strategic planning meetings to plan our overarching strategies, and to plan for the future.


Photo: Richard Rayman and Samantha Freeman-Atwood, courtesy E. vollick