By: Abigail Nelson, Community Editor
College campuses are always bustling with activity. These social events bring the college community together and help cultivate a safe place for students. USM Student Activities works hard throughout the school year to engage students who live on campus with fun games, contests, and other similar weekly events. After students were sent home due to COVID-19, Student Activities has had to shift their approach to engaging students. How do you socialize in an age of social distancing?
This was the question Student Activities strived to answer. “We are strategizing everyday to figure out new ways to engage students.” said Student Activities Director David Lewis. Lewis, along with his colleagues, are in contact with other college staff around the country to share ideas and see what is working. These new ideas have resulted in different forms of virtual events. So far, Student Activities has held events like trivia nights and kahoot games via Zoom, a TED talk, and even a virtual open mic night. In addition, they have been offering free concerts every Friday night through Degy Entertainment.
The switch did come with some difficulty. Staff and students had to adjust to new technology and how to best utilize it for student engagement. Lewis shared how his colleagues and himself have already been using platforms like Zoom for meetings and Facebook or Instagram for advertising and marketing. Now they face the challenge of how to use the same platforms to engage students and what precautionary measures to take within these platforms to ensure the safety and respect of the students attending a certain event.
“Zoom bombing”, an event where an individual drops in on a zoom meeting and is inappropriate in some way, has been a concern of the Student Activities staff. The school has taken several precautionary measures, including required passwords to enter a meeting, in order to prevent that event from happening. “A lot of USM students are very respectful,” Lewis said, which has helped there to not be added challenges.
As both staff and students have settled in and have learned more about these social platforms, Lewis said the number of students at events has grown. The first week of being home was slow and more focused on letting students know what was and would be available to them. By the second week, Lewis said they saw more participation, depending on the event. “As we continually hold events and it becomes more of a regular thing, more students will join,” Lewis said.
Staying connected and being part of a community has been scientifically proven to have a direct impact in successful academics. Especially during the isolating time, Student Activities is encouraging students to be reaching out. “Students still need to stay connected with friends, faculty, and staff during this pandemic,” Lewis said, “we can’t stop doing what we do just because we have to finish the semester at home.” Even now, Student Activities is still striving to put students first and want the students to know they are still to help encourage and support them. Lewis said he hopes students find a sense of relief from the stress of current events and find community in these events. “We miss you,” Lewis said, “everyday in our meetings we say how we miss talking with students and seeing them face to face.” They encourage students to reach out and hope that the students are doing well.
All future events will be posted on both the class’s Facebook pages, Student Activities Instagram page and the Student Activities website.