For many, the college experience is as much about personal development as it is about academic pursuits. Universities recognize the desire and need for students to develop holistically and provide opportunities to engage in student life across campus. This year has made university community engagement challenging as social distancing and necessary health precautions take center stage.
Remote learning has taken the place of on-campus learning, at least in part, for most colleges across the country. As a result, when university community engagement events are held, attendance is limited virus spread and exposure. In many cases, virtual communities have taken the place of in-person events. Creativity has become an unexpected part of the job description for many in student affairs. As such, the student engagement software company, Presence, put together a list of 53 activities to keep students engaged in a virtual environment.
Other institutions and companies have rolled out other initiatives to promote university campus engagement while the world continues to battle COVID-19.
Communicate Clearly (and Frequently)
Students and families alike need to know what’s going on. Good communication is necessary to ease their concerns about outbreaks of the virus and other safety measures the school is taking to keep students safe. Whether the news is good or bad, it’s important that universities are prompt and transparent with their communication. A mix of emails, videos, social media posts, or similar will keep students connected to their school through continued trust and will enhance their connection to a larger community with a “we’re all in this together” camaraderie.
Engage on Virtual Platforms
While Zoom fatigue is setting in for students and administration alike, the use of this platform allows schools and students to remain connected. Whether hosting virtual concerts, offering advising sessions, providing tutoring and counseling hours, or connecting through convocation events, today’s technology can be used to leverage this unique time in history and prevent social disengagement. While university community engagement may look different this year, it’s more important than ever to proactively connect with students.
Many universities have leveraged their social media platforms to retain university community engagement while students are attending remotely. Seeing photos of friends, favorite campus spots, and previous events keeps students connected while apart. Since these platforms are already a space in which students are engaged, harnessing this medium is a natural way to meet students where they are, regardless of physical location.
Tap Your Alumni
Lean into your alumni to post photos, share stories, and memories on your social platforms. Tap alums to guest lecture or share their “real world” experience in class. The sense of pride that alumni can bring to current students shouldn’t be undervalued. Providing networking opportunities for current students with alums is invaluable right now as students worry about future employability and opportunities. This non-traditional university community engagement opportunity will keep students connected and alums more likely to faithfully support the university with time and money going forward.
Despite the challenge that 2020 has brought to college campuses, university community engagement experiences can continue to build whole and healthy students. While community engagement may look different than they have in the past, with a bit of creativity, students may emerge stronger than ever as they learn resilience and flexibility like never before.