Students balance fun, responsibility during pandemic

Students balance fun, responsibility during pandemic

How do college students get involved on campus when getting involved could pose a health risk?

“By being diligent about following guidelines and remembering they can still have a rich college experience,” said Daniel Adams, director of Student Involvement at PC.

Adams and the Student Involvement staff knew the Fall 2020 semester would be like no other semester on campus. PC students are known for getting involved in clubs and organizations on campus and attending on-campus events.

But how would the semester go when students are required to follow precautions in an effort to keep the campus community safe? How would practicing social distancing and wearing a face covering affect students outside the classroom?

Planning for Success 

“We really had to build everything from the ground up again,” Adams said.

“It wasn’t easy, but it was a good opportunity for us to say, ‘What are we doing? How are we doing that? And is that the right method to employ in this unique environment?'”

The semester began with Shuckin’ & Shaggin’, the Welcome Week feature event that students have looked forward to for years.

“Students adhered to COVID precautions as best they could,” said Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students Dr. Joy Smith, “but we quickly saw that large group events were not going to be sustainable due to the distancing that was needed to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

So the Student Involvement staff switched gears.

“Our focus has really been on creating small-group hybrid and niche events and sometimes fully virtual events with our students so they have a variety of things to do without having to gather in large crowds,” said Taylor Dement, assistant director of student involvement: orientation and events.

Enjoying college life while being responsible

Student Involvement met with student leaders from registered student organizations (RSOs) every week during the fall semester to plan events. Some students joined Adams and team in Laurens Hall, where they all wore masks and sat at least 6 feet apart. Others joined via Zoom.

At first, students grew frustrated as they tried to plan events within COVID guidelines.

“While many of them understood the severity of the virus, they were still upset that they were not having the ‘normal’ college experience they were in Fall 2019 and before,” said Marissa Buck, assistant director of Student Involvement.

Buck reminded students that college students across the country were grappling with the same issues that PC students were facing.

“‘We aren’t punishing you with these guidelines, we are just trying to keep everyone safe and healthy,’” Buck says she reminded the students.

“Once they got over that initial frustration, we were able to work with some key leaders to plan safe and successful events. The groups that were most resilient and innovative in the fall already have some great events in the works for the spring semester.”

Noteworthy Events in the Fall Semester 

Student Involvement points to these events as proof that PC students can have a rich college experience during the pandemic:

  • Students completed fun missions while competing against their friends in an app called GooseChase. Students in Campus Outreach led the effort as those from inside and outside the RSO completed 206 missions in a friendly and fierce competition.
  • Students made fall crafts and new friends over coffee, all while following COVID precautions in an off-campus event. Spectrum led and planned this event that also helped support a local business.
  • Students adhered to COVID precautions while playing intramural sports and exercising at the renovated Springs Student Center.  Fall offerings included outdoor volleyball, yard games, billiards, ping pong, soccer tennis (exactly what it sounds like), and social media competitions. The additional space in Springs Student Center made it easier for students to maintain 6 feet of distance during exercise. And reserving a time to exercise in the BLUE HOSE app ensured that the gym’s capacity stayed within guidelines established in an effort to keep students healthy.
  • Students enjoyed a socially distanced Halloween night that featured a:
    • double feature on the East Plaza
    • pumpkin-carving contest
    • Halloween costume contest
    • spooky decoration contest
  • Sorority members met virtually each week to talk through meaningful leadership challenges while taking part in the National Panhellenic Conference’s Be Bold Leadership program. The video series will be offered again in the upcoming semester.

Students also shared some of their favorite podcasts during pod talks and showed off their talent at open-mic nights. The events will continue in the spring.

Looking ahead

“Many students had good experiences and made great connections, all within the COVID guidelines in the fall,” Adams said.

Student Involvement helped students get involved during the pandemic, and Adams says they’re ready to do the same when students return to campus at the end of January.

“This hasn’t been an easy year for anyone,” he said.

“But if we can keep showing students there are lots of ways to stay connected and have fun during the pandemic, we can keep them focused on the things they can do to continue to be successful at PC.”

Learn More

You can make a difference in the community, build friendships, and pursue your passions and talents by getting involved at PC. Visit Get Involved to learn more. Please visit #ProtectPC for information and updates related to the pandemic.