Academic Initiatives Fund supports projects for beginning, end of Brock journey

NOTE: This is one in a series of stories highlighting projects supported by Brock’s Academic Initiatives Fund (AIF), which was established by the University in spring 2021. AIF projects will address key priorities outlined in Brock’s Institutional Strategic Plan and position the University to face the challenges of recovery from the pandemic. To read other stories in the AIF series, click here.

A new pair of initiatives is set to help students at the beginning and end of their time at Brock University.

As part of Brock’s new Academic Initiatives Fund (AIF), new and second-year students will be provided with enhanced supports from Student Life and partners across campus, while graduating students will be provided with comprehensive resources from the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC) to maintain their mental health when they finish their time at Brock.

The two projects are among 18 that have received one-year seed funding to address key priorities outlined in the University’s Institutional Strategic Plan and aid with Brock’s pandemic recovery.

Brad Clarke, Brock’s Director of Student Life and Success and one of the architects of the projects to welcome and support new students, said the funding will allow for the expansion of existing and implementation of new initiatives for students in their second year.

“Last year, we established a series of virtual orientation offerings for new students, but this year with the return to an on-campus experience, we sought to expand offerings and implement a hybrid orientation program for first-year students,” he said. “We also acknowledged that second-year students were coming to Brock for the first time after a fully virtual first year, and we wanted to create an orientation experience unique to them.”

Additions this year include an expanded month-long welcome program, events staged safely outdoors under open-air tents, the distribution of wellness kits during the Fall Term and the implementation of a comprehensive second-year orientation program.

With the new programs underway, Clarke said further steps will be taken to assess their effectiveness going forward.

“We are launching a call campaign to connect with our students. We want to learn more about their experience and to show them that Brock cares,” he said. “We also hope to connect students to campus resources that will help their success.”

The new initiative for graduating students was the result of a survey that was developed by SWAC; Co-op, Career and Experiential Education; Associate Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning Madelyn Law; and Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Karen Patte.

SWAC Director Sarah Pennisi said the resources that will be provided to graduating students aim to ease their transition away from Brock while encouraging the use of community-based wellness services.

“Students said in a survey we conducted that they are worried about not having access to on-campus mental health resources,” she said. “They think they need money or insurance to get that, and they are suggesting that we provide info about how to access counselling services in the community.”

To ease these concerns, resources are being created specifically to address these needs.

“We will be developing information and resources on services that are already available in the community and are free,” said Pennisi. “It’s important for us to listen to students because the needs of students who are graduating are unique and have not had as much attention and focus in the past. We need to respond to that gap and to provide resources to show our continued commitment to their success and well-being even after they leave.”

Clarke said all of the AIF efforts will deliver an even better experience for students as they return to Brock’s campuses.

“This year more than ever, Brock is working hard to implement programs and initiatives that respond to our students’ changing needs,” he said. “The programs developed through this initiative are meant to provide care and support to our students during these challenging times.”

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