Brock grad thankful for student supports

The journey may have taken longer than expected, but when Karli Woods received her undergraduate degree last week, the taste of success was just as sweet.

Born hearing impaired and neurodiverse, the mature student initially had trouble keeping up with the demands of full-time student life. Her challenges became more manageable once she started to access Brock supports.

Woods, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Sciences on Monday, June 12, says employees at Brock’s Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and Student Wellness Accessibility Centre (SWAC) were “a great source of help” during her studies.

“Brock’s SAS and SWAC provided me with the best disability support so I could keep up with my coursework,” says Woods. “I would not have been able to achieve this degree were it not for them and my professors. Their help, guidance, accommodations and passion for what they do helped inspire me to want to pursue graduate studies.”

Woods came to Brock after a six-year academic hiatus, completing her first year in person before classes moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual learning came with its challenges, but Woods found support through her SAS case worker.

“COVID made it difficult for me,” she says. “The shift to Microsoft Teams meant I was often straining to hear and missing things. When my SAS case worker told me about the sub-titles option, it made a real difference.”

The early pandemic was a difficult time for post-secondary students, particularly for students with disabilities/disabled students, says Lisa Peso, SWAC Operations Supervisor.

“For many students, changes in course delivery, limited social connections and mental health challenges impacted their ability to engage in the things they needed or wanted to do,” she says. “Despite this, we saw incredible resilience in our students and unique opportunities for participation in virtual courses.”

SAS provided Woods with lecture notetaking services and documentation letters explaining the additional support needed, such as receiving discussion questions in advance and more detailed instructions for assignments. Several teaching assistants also discouraged multiple simultaneous discussions to ensure Woods could fully participate in online lectures and seminars.

Outside of her classes, Woods was able to pursue her interest in social issues through a Political Sciences internship with Brock’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO), a public policy think-tank that partners with the local community to produce and disseminate research.

“While at NCO, I engaged 12 municipalities on affordable housing. Knowing my work may make a small contribution towards improving people’s lives, particularly for women and children, was very rewarding,” says Woods.

Building on her achievements at Brock, Woods has been accepted to an online master’s in international development program at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She is also a new board member for the non-profit charitable organization Inclusion Action in Ontario, a role that allows her to pursue her commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities in education and the community.

“We are so honoured to hear about the positive experience that Karli shared,” says Peso. “We believe strongly in partnership. We are here to walk alongside students, and we recognize they do the real work in achieving their goals. Karli’s success is attributed to her significant persistence and motivation despite challenges along the way.”

For more information about Student Accessibility Services, visit the Brock SWAC website.

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