To say COVID-19 rapidly altered our semester would be an understatement. We canceled all in-person classes and events, moved to remote learning, and most students returned home. Obviously it was not how we planned for the semester to go, but we had to step outside of ourselves and look at the bigger picture. We had to do what we could as a community to flatten the curve and keep everyone safe and healthy.
Knowing this is not what our students were anticipating, the Office of Student and Community Engagement (SCE) wanted to create opportunities for students to still connect with one another and gather as a community. We had to get creative to make this happen! We asked ourselves: How can we develop a sense of community when we are all in different places? How do we come together during a difficult time without physically coming together?
We decided to focus our efforts on virtual events, meetings, and social media. We encouraged our student organizations to adapt their events to virtual experiences when possible. We challenged them to think creatively and develop new events to build community. Many organizations opted to continue holding their meetings over Zoom. Our student interns and professional staff in the SCE office created engaging content for our students on social media.
To capture these experiences, we established the hashtag #capfamconnected, which was chosen by students voting in a Twitter poll. Our community has quickly caught on to using the hashtag and it has been awesome to see how everyone has contributed to bringing people together! Student organizations like CHAARG, the Interfaith Council, Delta Sigma Pi, YoungLife, and AMP have hosted meetings and events. Student Government sponsored a Q&A with Provost Dr. Jody Fournier and our office celebrated the successes of our students and student organizations with our first virtual Leadership Awards Ceremony on April 13, 2020.
During this time, one of my favorite things to share on social media has been the photos of Capital each Friday morning. I am fortunate enough to still be close to campus, and with my husband and dog as my sidekicks, I have been capturing the beauty of springtime on Capital’s campus. For many of us, Capital is not just the place where we take classes or work, it is a part of us and our home. Since most of our community cannot be here right now, I hope that sharing parts of campus brings everyone a small amount of happiness.
My heart especially goes out to our seniors who missed out on what should have been an incredibly fun month leading up to Commencement on May 2, 2020. While our office has dedicated Thursday social media posts to celebrating them, I know that posting a side-by-side photo of your first and senior years just is not the same as attending the Spaghetti Dinner with your friends.
To our 2020 Seniors: Thank you all for being remarkably strong during this time. I hope you know that we are extremely proud of your successes and grateful for your contributions over the last four or five years. I look forward to the day when we can properly celebrate you at our postponed Commencement ceremony!
I know this was not how we wanted our spring semester and academic year to conclude, and I am proud to be work alongside so many dedicated colleagues and students who have quickly adapted to this new world. I hope that our efforts have brought some feelings of comfort, hope, and connectedness into your lives. My gratitude goes out to everyone who is an essential worker and to everyone who is doing their part to stay at home and physically distanced. As you wrap up the semester, I hope you know we are cheering you on and celebrating you – just from a bit further away than usual.