SOCS to deliver on-campus welcome to off-campus students

Hundreds of first-year students living off campus will have access to more resources than ever when they arrive at Brock this fall.

Thanks to funding from Brock’s BU 4U Retention and Graduation Grants, Student Life and Community Experience has expanded and redesigned the Society of Off-Campus Students (SOCS).

Created to provide a central hub for first-year students who are living off campus, SOCS offers a nine-week transition program featuring community engagement, friendship building, on-campus involvement and leadership skills development under the guidance of senior student mentors.

Rebecca Balyk, Off-Campus Living Assistant in Student Life and Community Experience, said the expanded program helps new students to feel more comfortable on campus, even if they don’t live there.

“In university, the best way to really get the full experience is to get involved outside of the classroom,” she said. “SOCS shows students how to do that and sets them up for success after the nine weeks are finished.”

Some of the events the society hosts throughout the semester include a welcome barbecue, Halloween pumpkin painting, a campfire and exploring the ropes course, while also attending other large University events as a group.

Student Life and Community Experience Director Brad Clarke said experts from within the University helped guide SOCS programming.

“Recent research by Brock Child and Youth Studies Professors Shauna Pomerantz and Dawn Zinga explored university students’ first-year experience and highlighted the value of off-campus and commuter students building strong networks and connections to the campus experience,” said Clarke. “Brock SOCS is a key strategy and tool in supporting off-campus and commuter students’ transitions to university life. We want our students to be successful, academically and socially, right from the very first day of Welcome Week.”

Balyk said the SOCS program delivers on the goal of early engagement by providing ample resources from the moment students arrive.

“Welcome Week can seem a bit intimidating when you don’t live in residence,” she said. “But we are providing meet ups for off-campus students to get together with their mentors before many of the major events, so they will have familiar faces there with them at every event.”

The programming will then continue for much of the term with themed weeks and events providing assistance to students on topics including stress relief, study resources, friendship building and independent living.

Clarke said the program ties in to the University’s overall focus on off-campus relations.

“Brock is one of a handful of colleges or universities in Canada with an office that focuses on off-campus student living and neighbourhood relations,” he said.  “We are excited to expand the Brock SOCS program within the set of supports and services the University provides for its off-campus and commuter students. SOCS is guided by the best practices that we know benefit student engagement and success.”

With the Fall Term quickly approaching, Balyk hopes incoming students will register for SOCS in order to hit the ground running in September.

“It’s definitely worth signing up for,” she said. “If students are just going to classes and then going home, they will be missing out on so much of what Brock has to offer. Registering for SOCS is the first step toward having a successful and fulfilling Brock experience.”

To learn more about SOCS or register as a member, visit the Student Life and Community Experience website.

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