Helping Students SOAR!
During the 2014 elections, UCI students passed the SOAR referendum which will fund the center until 2046. Since securing permanent funding the center is able to focus on improving the quality of its’ current programs and eventually expanding.
The Student Outreach and Retention (SOAR) Center is dedicated to providing outreach services and programs for students to help maintain a high student retention rate in the UCI community. They do this through providing study spaces, academic counseling and advising services, and serving as a link to other student services on campus. Some of their outreach includes connecting students to campus resources and hosting programs such as the Anteater Mentorship Program and the Ambassadors Program.
Since the inception of the center in 2011, SOAR has faced hardships due to financial insecurity. The Center was funded in large part from the Office of the Chancellor of Student Affairs but this was temporary and not enough to ensure the SOAR Center could provide the programs and services that it desired
In Spring 2013, representatives of the SOAR Center created a student referendum to secure the necessary funding. Ultimately this effort failed when the vote for the referendum fell 55 votes short of meeting the quorum set by the ASUCI elections by-laws.
“Its’ been fairly hard to provide quorum at this institution.” Leland Simpliciano, the SOAR Administrative Specialist, said. “I think prior to Bus Love, there has only been passed in the past twelve years–we are low on student engagement, so quorum is hard to meet.”
Simpliciano, who graduated in 2012, had been active in the movement to establish the SOAR Center as a student and is currently on staff there.
“I just remember just being in that moment and they announced it during the election results day and everyone was surprised–they were just happy and screaming and hugging–everything,” he said, recollecting on the moment the election results were announced. “It was the complete opposite of last year–it was tears of sadness to tears of joy!”
As a student, Simpliciano remembers struggling both socially and academically until he volunteered for an outreach campaign that exposed him to student leaders and resources he described as empowering.
“In terms of outreaching and serving and representing the students this helped me realize how fortunate I was to be in this higher education culture” he said.
Two main programs the SOAR provides are the Anteater Mentorship Project and the Ambassadors Program.
The Anteater Mentorship Program pairs incoming freshmen, transfers, or other students who just want guidance, with an upperclassman who can guide and support them both academically and socially.
The Ambassadors Program educates students about outreach and retention issues.
Through these programs, the SOAR Center seeks to foster a community of belonging on campus.
“[The SOAR Center is] originally visioned to be that home away from home–in terms of being a student family,” Simpliciano said.
“It’s all about community and interacting with the students,” he said, “because those are the things that really keeps students connected.”