Student organizations must continue to build community and foster relationships as Calvin makes the switch to completely online learning for the remainder of the semester.
Sexuality and Gender Awareness (SAGA) is seeking to maintain its tight-knit community over the internet. This semester, SAGA meetings have taken place entirely online through weekly Zoom meetings, which certainly has its drawbacks.
“[W]e definitely miss seeing each other’s friendly faces in person, as well as the free pizza we usually offer every week,” said Kelsey Colburn, coordinator for sexuality programming.
On the other hand, Colburn noted that breakout rooms on Zoom are actually better suited to close conversations than SAGA’s past practice, which was spreading out in groups across a large room. SAGA has also watched movies and played Jackbox games as a group in efforts to connect from a distance.
The next challenge for SAGA will be planning for its annual Christmas party. “Usually, we host a white elephant party in person, so we’re trying to bounce around ideas and figure out how to celebrate properly and joyfully this year from a distance!” Colburn said.
Mu Kappa, a group consisting of third culture kids and missionary kids, will also be relying on Zoom to connect as Calvin transitions to remote learning. Co-president Lindsay Laurie lamented the fact that COVID restrictions have made it difficult for the group to bond over food, which was key to community-building efforts of the group in the past. Although Mu Kappa was able to have a few successful food-focused events this semester by following Calvin’s stringent guidelines, shared food is now off the table as students leave for their homes.
Laurie also noted that it will likely be a challenge for students to keep up the motivation to participate in their organizations as things go remote.
For the Calvin Video Game Sphere (VGS), the remote portion of the semester will entail weekly meetings at 4pm on Fridays to play online party games, such as Among Us. Because of COVID restrictions on campus, this has been the format for all VGS meetings this semester. The group created a Discord server in order to connect and foster community even as members are apart.
The group hopes that this community will carry over as things move online. “[T]he Video Game Sphere will continue to host online gaming parties every week, and if you’re ever feeling bored or lonely, we would love to have you join us!” said VGS president Lucas Haan.
As in-person interactions decrease with the switch to online learning, student org leaders are encouraging members of their organizations and the broader Calvin community to engage in practices to keep them grounded.
Laurie suggested that students make a list of things they are thankful for — “and make them specific things” — so that they can “look over the list when things suck.”
Colburn encouraged students to remember to reach out to their communities even when at a distance. “You are very loved and always welcome at Calvin’s student groups, including SAGA! That doesn’t change while we move to remote learning,” Colburn said.