Since 2001, Student Open Circles has been working with students to support them in their life and spiritual journeys and to make a difference in the community.
Founders, Marybeth Leis and Jeff Druery, have been providing guidance for students since 1995. As they listened to students, they recognized the need for welcoming and respectful spaces for students from a diversity of backgrounds to explore meaning, values, spirituality, and social justice.
We are a Canadian registered charity based in Hamilton, Ontario (registration number 891444309 RR0001).
Students who care about self and others, and create better communities wherever they go
Student Open Circles mentors and empowers students from diverse backgrounds in personal and spiritual reflection, community service, and leadership development
- Care and Compassion
- Safety and Respect
- Dignity and Worth of all Individuals
- Spiritual Reflection and Growth
- Community Engagement and Service
- Authenticity and Integrity
Our Major Sponsors
Student Open Circles is supported by the generosity of donors, local community partners, and grants. Every contribution makes a difference. Become a Donor
Funding for our Community Volunteer Circles program is provided by The Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund and the Pandemic Response Fund of the Hamilton Community Foundation.
Funding for COVID-19 recovery is provided by the Ontario Trillium Foundation's Resilient Communities Fund.
Recognizing the need for inclusive, non-sectarian spaces for students to engage in spiritual exploration and service, Hamilton Mennonite Church has financially supported Student Open Circles from our inception.
Our Board Members
Sonika Kainth (Chair)
Sonika Kainth is a family physician at a community health centre serving marginalized individuals. When she was at McMaster as a student, she attended Student Open Circle’s reflection and mindfulness groups, as well as volunteered with the heterogeneous groups of marginalized populations in Hamilton. Volunteering with Student Open Circles ignited her passion and brought her to where she is working today.
Sylvia Botchway, MD
Sylvia is a medical resident at the University of Connecticut Internal medicine program. Her academic journey has taken her to many places including Ghana, Canada, Sint Maarten and the United States. She is passionate about serving the underserved and has made it a point to give back to the many places she has called home. She has spent the last decade working closely with vulnerable populations and hopes to dedicate her career to improving access to healthcare and the quality of healthcare for the vulnerable in society.
Ana Campos, a Brazilian by birth, started her career at McMaster as an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department in 1992 after carrying out her training in the US. Since accepting the position Director of the School of Interdisciplinary Science in 2017 Ana has been a member of the SOC board, consistent with her commitment to provide a holistic support to all students.
Robert Cockcroft (he/him)
Rob Cockcroft is a teaching faculty member in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Director of the William J McCallion Planetarium, and Secretary for the Canadian Astronomical Society. Teaching science and communicating science to the general public, or "outreach", are both fields that are extremely important to him and activities that he enjoys. Through this work, he is also engaging with Indigenous scholars to work collaboratively on Indigenous astronomy projects.
Clare de Souza
Clare recently graduated from McMaster University with an Honours degree in English & Cultural Studies and Sociology. She is currently working for an international charity that provides medical services and community support for under resourced populations. She hopes to continue to work with organizations that nurture personal and collective growth.
Dave Heidebrecht (he/him)
Dave Heidebrecht is an advisor on special projects in the Office of the Vice Provost Teaching and Learning at McMaster University. He supports the development of experiential learning programs, coordinates internal networks of colleagues across campus, and is also an instructor in the University's Interdisciplinary Minor in Community Engagement. He was the founding chair of Cycle Hamilton Coalition Inc., an advocacy organization that promotes a healthy, safe, and sustainable cycling culture in Hamilton.
Emilie Rayner (She / Her)
Emilie attended McMaster University as an undergraduate student and participated in SOC student groups throughout the entirety of her degree. Following her undergrad, she interned with SOC before pursuing her Masters’ of Teaching at the University of Toronto. Emilie currently works for a non-profit and is driven to find ways that allow youth to understand issues in their communities and empower them to take action.
Nicole Szabo (she/her)
Nicole Szabo attended McMaster University as an undergraduate student where she volunteered for SOC's Community Volunteer Circles for 3 years. She recently completed her master’s in biology and is pursuing a career in scientific communications. As an alumni, Nicole is excited to connect with the McMaster and Hamilton community again through SOC.
I am a professor of materials engineering at McMaster. I previously served as dean of engineering and as university provost. My research and teaching are in the area of the strength and ductility of materials, with a particular focus on the development of lightweight automotive structures for improved fuel efficiency.
Yufei Zheng (she/her)
Yufei works at McMaster University as the International Graduate Students Coordinator. She enjoys interacting with students and learning about their unique journeys, perspectives, and aspirations. Yufei holds a BA in Information and Media Studies and completed her MEd in Higher Education Student Development and Student Services.