Applied Health Sciences using AIF to further support students

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.

Through funding from Brock’s Academic Initiatives Fund, the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences (FAHS) is working on two projects that will result in enhanced first-year student success and retention, as well as the opportunity for continuing education to gain an Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Accessibility Consultant Certificate.

Aiming to further support student success, retention and academic advancement — particularly while students progress through many new experiences in their first year — the AIF has enabled FAHS to create a part-time, student academic advising position that will cover all five of its departments.

This new position will support existing department-based academic advising by adding specific capacity to focus on incoming first-year students to advance their transition from high school and to support their academic needs. 

This initiative will be important for incoming domestic and international students, as well as for first-generation Canadians, disabled students and those in marginalized and under-represented communities such as Black, Indigenous and People of Colour populations,” said FAHS Associate Dean Teaching and Undergraduate Studies Kirsty Spence.

Each department in FAHS has one academic advisor, who often deals with more than 1,000 students. This newly created position will ease students’ transition within Brock, help ensure their academic needs and goals are seen to and that they feel welcome, included and comfortable in their new environment.

“By relieving some of the first-year student advising load, this position will also improve those advisors’ ability to focus on providing greater service and attention to upper-year students,” said Spence. “We hope this results in improved student satisfaction, progression and retention within these student populations, as well.”

The position will also liaise with Brock’s student support and advising resources, health and mental health services and other internal and external student support networks as needed.

The second Applied Health Sciences AIF project is in relation to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). To help meet the “fully accessible Ontario by 2025” deadline, the Brock Niagara Centre of Excellence in Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity is uniquely positioned to develop a continuing education certificate that recognizes and works toward that deadline, training individuals to become future provincial AODA Accessibility Consultants.

Generated by two FAHS Experiential Education Co-ordinators, Janet Westbury and Elyse Lappano, and currently under development, the continuing education certificate will initially cover the Customer Service, Employment, and Design of Public Spaces accessibility standard areas.

“In launching this certificate program, Brock will both welcome a new student population and align directly with an industry need,” said Brock Niagara Centre of Excellence in Inclusive and Adaptive Physical Activity Director and Kinesiology Professor Maureen Connolly. “Through this AIF project, we hope to serve Brock alumni and community members with an interest in Environmental Public Health and Accessibility.”

To deliver this program, two positions are being created: a Curriculum Developer and AODA Consultant Certification Web Developer. These roles will use specialized skills and knowledge to work solely on program development, while at the same time liaising with internal and external stakeholders.

“This certificate program will be a first for FAHS as we enter into continuing education,” said Connolly. “I’m pleased we are moving forward with a lens on accessibility, inclusion and anti-ableism. I’m confident with the correct supports in place, we will be able to establish even more consultative connections with organizations and those working with disabled individuals.”

Brock is currently planning for this certificate to be an open enrolment, non-degree, non-credit opportunity offered to all learners. The full certification completion is anticipated to be an equivalent to a two-term experience. More details will be announced in the near future.

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