Gone are the days when it was possible to get through a semester of classes that required attendance without ever seeing or speaking to a single classmate.
Orange Coast College is reaching one year since reopening campus after lifting COVID-19 campus restrictions. After almost two years of virtual classrooms, students were transitioned back to in-person classes in the spring 2022 semester.
While remote learning grants more flexibility and necessary health precautions, the lack of community infrastructure is detrimental to student success and well-being.
According to a CDC survey, young adults (18-24) suffer disproportionately from mental health problems more than any other age group since the pandemic. Another study by Harvard University states 61% of the same age group has been suffering from debilitating loneliness since the pandemic.
Spending time on campus presents opportunities for personal and professional development. Students getting involved and creating communities that share a common goal on campus are integral parts of the college experience.
Social isolation from distant learning was inevitable but not irreparable. One department within the Student Union building plays a significant role in restoring campus culture and opportunities that were erased during the lockdown: Student Life & Leadership department.
The Student Life & Leadership department's mission statement is to “create opportunities for student involvement, leadership development, and campus engagement.” The department facilitates events, conferences, clubs, workshops and organizations for students at OCC.
Associated Students of OCC (ASOCC) is essentially the student body. Any matriculated OCC student who paid the optional College Service Charge is a part of ASOCC. The student government represents the student body and oversees the five branches that run ASOCC programs and events.
Students can run for senate and executive board through an application process toward the end of each school year. The top nine candidates with the most votes from the student body win the one-year election term starting in the following spring semester. The senate appoints candidates to the executive boards.
Jose Lomeli, the vice president of the Student Senate, explained how students who are not a part of the senate and executive board can still participate in decision-making conferences by requesting to join the Participatory Governance Committee.
“The branches are representing groups for the students and we actually encourage students to be a part of them,” Lomeli said. “It builds a sense of community and brings all students into the goal were trying to achieve which includes everyone to have their voice heard”
Clubs are another good way to find groups that share similar interests. The Pirate Involvement Fair gathers on campus for students to discover and join various clubs, organizations, and programs. The fair occurs early in the semester at the Main Quad.
Clubs are inclusive to all students and designed to explore interests. Ethan Scanlan, president of the Art & Animation Club, said joining clubs can be intimidating but insists students should join regardless of skill or interest level.
“We encourage all skill levels and never want to dissuade new [members] because everyone has to start somewhere,” Scanlan said. “All activities are aimed at giving everyone a shot.”
OCC has lost about 30 clubs since the pandemic, but 40 active clubs remain strong and the numbers continue to increase as students establish their own clubs. Visit Student Life and Leadership Department or the Student Club & Organization webpage for more information about active clubs and starting a club.
Students can keep up with club meetings through Student Club & Organizations event calendar. The calendar also includes student development workshops and events for fun activities, such as open mic night and holiday festivities.
The Student Union is a relatively new building that includes a wide variety of activities for students to study, get involved, and hang out. April Margol, the Student Life & Leadership coordinator, reminds students why it’s important to get connected on campus and be heard.
“We all saw what being apart from one another did to the community,” Margol said. “It’s important for students to get involved because through helping others we help ourselves feel like we matter. Staff can't make decisions for students without hearing their perspectives.”