SPACES Encourages Students to Create Community
Galloway, N.J. – Space is defined as the freedom and scope to live, think and develop in a way that suits one.
During the Feb. 7 welcome reception for SPACES – an initiative that works to advance belonging for Stockton University’s increasingly global campus – Ellis Bonds, ’15, opened up about how the creation of different spaces on campus is important when it comes to the university experience for students like him and thanked Residential Life for supporting his growth on campus.
“When I was a student here, I was still coming to terms with who I was and my sexual identity, so home was not a safe place for me to go at that time, unfortunately,” said Bonds, who is interim director for Residential Education. “I was an EOF student, student senator, orientation leader, pledged for my fraternity freshman year and became the Greek Council president later on in college. But all of those things wouldn’t have been possible if I did not have somewhere to live. Residential Life was the office that provided that space for me to be able to stay on campus all four and a half years and get to the finish line, but also have a space where I could just be myself, be free and not have to worry about judgment from others.”
The significance of creating spaces and community was a common thread throughout the program. Student speakers Ter’ron Oglesby, Jaedyn Thomson and Juan Diego Chaparro all recounted their time at the program’s Deeper SPACES Retreat, a weekend-long trip for students that encourages them to engage in conversations on social justice and diversity.
“It's just a different type of weekend where you get to really see how we all kind of fit into this world and how we affect each other. There are a lot of people who have realizations there and came back here like a whole different person because now they understand certain things,” Oglesby shared. “It's definitely a learning experience. You get to meet so many people you never thought you would, and it's also really fun, too; after the sessions, we literally sat around the fire all night talking and laughing.”
Thomson, a CEO intern in the Political Science program, said the trip was an “enlightening” experience, especially for a first-year student.
“I was really nervous, but I actually left SPACES making a lot of friends and becoming closer with Ter’ron and a few other people,” Thomson said. “We had a lot of sessions and some, like when they're talking about gender and sexuality, really connected with me, and it was very refreshing to see the people around me with lightbulbs going off. It made me feel more comfortable talking with people.”
The trip proved to be “transformational” for Marine Biology major Chaparro, who admittedly joined at the last minute with the intention of finding a new fishing spot in Medford Lake.
“I froze to death in the morning, and I caught nothing, but I ended up actually making a lot of friends out of it,” Chaparro said. “Being completely isolated from my friends and with a completely new set of people at a retreat where we really got to open up about individual struggles was transformative in and of itself. It’s one thing learning about social justice and another experiencing and getting first-hand details about the struggles that people deal with in their daily lives. That’s what made the retreat so special.”
According to Steven Radwanski, assistant vice president for Student Living and Learning, the program SPACES epitomizes Stockton and its culture of getting involved on campus. He encouraged students to continue looking for spaces that make them feel seen and heard.
“Find your space because they do exist on this campus,” Radwanski, '05, said. “That's the great thing about Stockton — you can find that space where you can fit in and where you can belong.”
The next Deeper SPACES Social Justice Retreat will be from Friday, April 12 to Sunday, April 14, at the Stockton — Atlantic City campus. Visit their page for updates.
SPACES Welcomes New Students to Stockton
September 8, 2022
Galloway, N.J. – As music blared and the smell of empanadas and egg rolls wafted through the Campus Center Event Room, more than 300 students, staff and faculty celebrated the beginning of the fall semester at the annual fall SPACES Welcome Reception Sept. 6.
Launched in 2018, SPACES is a program that encourages diversity and inclusion through connection. The twice-a-year Welcome Reception, which boasts free multicultural food, a live DJ and door prizes, is one of their staple programs.
Students were given multiple icebreaker opportunities, such as fun group activities to complete and free buttons that showcase parts of their identities, including race and ethnicity, religion, and even whether they're a commuter or residential student.
– Story by Loukaia Taylor
– Story by Loukaia Taylor
– Photos by Lizzie Nealis