What does it mean to experience Brock?

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When Brock changed its motto from “both sides of the brain” to “experience,” a new era began. Moving forward from the dichotomy of logic and creativity, Brock now highlights the holistic, often immeasurable metric of experience.

What does it mean to experience Brock University?

Brock is a diverse campus. With over 19,000 students enrolled across seven faculties coming from over 100 countries, inclusiveness is a priority for many students. It should come as no surprise, then, that students and staff overwhelmingly describe Brock culture as diverse, inclusive, welcoming, or some combination thereof.

“It is very welcoming. People are genuinely there to help you out. It’s very diverse in terms of interests. I have friends in different departments, and from different countries,” said Niveditha Sethumadhavan, third-year Business Communication student and speaker for the Brock University Student Administrative Council.

According to the 2015 Graduating Student Survey conducted by the Canadian University Survey Consortium, Brock students consistently reported higher rates of volunteerism than Canadian students overall. Students reported off-campus community service participation at a rate of 23 per cent, compared to the overall 20 per cent, and 19 per cent of students from comparable post-secondary institutions. On-campus, volunteerism was similarly high. Brock students reported a lower average number of volunteer hours amongst those who do volunteer, but a far greater amount of the population engaging than average.

Kristen Smith, the manager of student and community outreach with Student Life and Community Experience, has expertise in organizing volunteer efforts on campus and forging student experience.

“Brock is a welcoming and inclusive community. A lot of intention behind what we do is student-driven. A lot of those people creating that community are faculty, staff and students. It’s really a team effort to make it work. Beyond campus, the Niagara region is a great resource and being involved in the greater community is a big part of our culture,” said Smith. “People know you and care about you, there’s this familiarity. Every door is the right door here.”

This familiarity is present at every level of the university. Brad Clarke embodies the emphasis on student-driven work that Smith described.

“I think of Brock culture as our collective attitudes, values and practices — the sum of our day to day experiences as members of the Brock community. Brock culture is spirit and enthusiasm at a varsity event or thoughtfulness while volunteering in Niagara. It’s offering a helping hand or a listening ear, it’s looking out for one another. Brock culture is smiling faces and friendly hellos in the hallways; it’s small things like holding the door for the person coming behind you,” said Clarke.

The helpful attitude Clarke mentions shone through when student-staff from across campus eagerly shared their own definitions of culture, including Rachel Hicks, a third-year student in Child and Youth Studies who works at the Walker Welcome Desk.

“[It’s] very inclusive. We see lots of different types of people participate in fitness classes, the zone, intramurals, and it’s really nice to see. People not from Niagara still get involved on campus, and off campus as we can provide them with other resources. Really, we help get people involved in Brock life on and beyond campus,” said Hicks.

Maria Jadgal, a second-year Medical Sciences student and member of the stem cell club, shared what her experience of Brock has been: “Very welcoming. There’s something for everyone. We have nice facilities and resources that you can always get help from.”

Andrew Coupland, a fourth-year student in Child and Youth Studies, is employed with Information Technology Services on campus and can often be found offering technological help to other students in the computer commons. Coupland is involved with on of the many resources Jadgal referenced.

“[Brock culture is] open and positive. [It’s] welcoming for everyone, with different abilities and needs. It’s growing rapidly. Four years ago was a lot different. It’s cool to see the changes in facilities. It’s getting more and more exciting every year to come back,” said Coupland

Brock began humbly, with only 127 students and classes held in a former refrigerator factory when it first opened in September of 1964. The Alanburg Women’s Institute spearheaded the initial push for a university in Niagara. Brock’s student population has remained consistently female-dominant for more than 15 years.

The community pushed for Brock’s creation, contributed immense support financially and otherwise, and continued to raise the school from the ground. To this day, approximately 65 per cent of new full time undergraduate students are from Niagara region or the nearby greater Toronto Hamilton area. Brock has largely remained a university by and for the community. Since 1999, the number of international students increased by approximately 280 per cent, from 685 students to 1,913, maintaining the small-scale community atmosphere while welcoming students from across the globe to be a part of it.

“We are multi-racial. You never need to feel alone,” said Jadgal.

Dean McIntyre, the production manager at Guernsey Market, strives to support students of all backgrounds while providing food services. McIntyre says that Brock’s culture is diverse and eclectic.

“We see the food side, so we can see the diversity there. It’s eclectic, as we have students come to us with different dietary restrictions, wants and desires from various points in the spectrum. We ideally want to keep everyone happy, though that’s difficult,” said McIntyre.

According to that 2015 Graduating Student Survey, Brock students consistently rated their satisfaction with university experiences higher than both all students and those from comparable universities. More Brock students reported being satisfied or very satisfied with personal safety, friendships, involvement in campus life, enhancement of education, and opportunities for international study  than students overall.

When asked how he sees Brock culture changing in the future, Clarke based his predictions in Brock history.

“In a lot of ways, the campus culture I see now is very similar to what I experienced when I arrived as a first-year student in 1994. Even though the campus is much larger and there are twice as many students, we’ve still retained that close sense of community and the supportive connections between students, staff and faculty. I’m really impressed by the extent that current students are active and involved in Brock events and activities and in shaping their Brock experience. I think we all must look for ways to further encourage and reinforce this culture of student engagement; it’s critical to student success, now and in the future,” said Clarke.

“[Brock culture] is changing in a lot of ways. It’s bigger. Much as we try to keep things simple, it is a big place with many pieces in this mosaic puzzle,” said Director of Residences Jamie Fleming.

It is evident that Brock has undergone significant changes since its inception. What remains to be seen is where Brock will be in the future and how its culture will change. What will it mean to experience Brock in years to come?

According to Hicks: “It will have a bigger scale. We’re already expanding the zone and our capacities. We get so many requests for classes and equipment but right now we don’t have the space. Hopefully in the future we can accommodate more ideas and people and help them really become part of the Brock community.”

Vice President, Student Services Joyce Khouzam of the Brock University Students’ Union, also noted the growth at Brock in terms of enrolment.

“Brock’s culture will continue to grow and get stronger. With our enrolment numbers increasing (defying the trend we see across Ontario universities), our Badger family is growing. More enrolment also means a more diverse group of people, echoing the culture of inclusion we also have on campus. I can’t wait to see how Brock changes over the years; there’s great things happening,” said Khouzam.

Victoria Kaczmarczyk and Karina Atha, career assistants with Careerzone highlighted the present and future of inclusiveness on campus.

“Brock is inclusive, and very friendly. We do everything to help each other out,” Atha, a third-year Business student said.

Kaczmarczyk said she hopes accessibility at Brock continues to improve. Sethumadhavan shared this sentiment, as well.

“We are inclusive where are now, but we do have a lot to work on. I think we’ll be moving toward more collaborative and inclusive environment,” said Sethumadhavan.

When interviewed about Brock culture, all respondents cited inclusivity, diversity, friendliness and other holistic values. In 2018, we live in the era of experience.

The change in branding marked a step for Brock away from the familiar and into uncharted territory, defining success not only in predictable, predetermined ways but also in multi-dimensional, interdisciplinary ways.

“Rather than dividing the experience as cognitive and the hands on, experience melds the two together and makes for a more unified time at Brock,” said Wesley Spatazzo, a fourth-year Recreation and Leisure Studies student.

“Experiencing Brock, to me, is being a part of different communities and different experiences found on campus. Whether that’s in a social or sports context, it’s about finding different views and finding what works for you and doing it,” said Spatazzo. “Experience is stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. It’s easy to do what’s familiar, but to get the experience of Brock you need to step beyond what’s known.”

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