LIBERAL — As the Director of Student Life at SCCC, Wade Lyon’s work is all about bringing students together. That might mean jalapeno-eating contests, game nights, or “get to know you” events once known as “icebreakers.” In the age of COVID-19, though, bringing students together at the beginning of the academic year, becomes a more complicated task.
“We scheduled a lot of our favorite Welcome Week activities with new accommodations for social distancing,” said Lyon. “The caricature artist is always really popular, and instead of setting up in the student union, this time it will happen through Zoom.” Another longstanding favorite, Brown Bag Bingo, has expanded — literally.
“The event will be in the conference rooms, but more spread out to create social distancing,” Lyon said. “And to keep the contact limited, we are offering two 45-minute sessions instead of one continuous session.”
It’s important to find ways to reimagine these types of Student Life activities, said VP of Student Services Celeste Donovan. Over her decades-long careeer in student services, she has seen the positive and powerful effects of student engagement.
“Absolutely,” she said. “We know that student success is interwoven with their feeling of connection and belonging. That’s a social thing, and it is needed just as much as it was before COVID-19 hit. Maybe more, because people are lonely after months of isolation.”
Donovan, who also serves as a contact tracer on the SCCC COVID-19 response team, understands both sides of the pandemic dilemma.
“We have spent the entire summer focused on how to bring students back to campus and keep them safe,” she said. “Kudos to our housing director Jennifer Malin, who has changed everyday practices in the dorms, helped our students who were in place all summer, and is getting ready to be the dorm mom for our Saints moving in this weekend.“ With dorm rooms at single-occcupancy and strict guidelines governing everything from how to safely go through the cafeteria to when it’s a good thing to skip class (hint: if you are sick, stay home), social events might not seem like a priority.
“It’s important,” said Lyon. “Data shows students do better in academics when they are part of campus activities. We can’t just cancel everything, so we’re getting creative about how to provide student life choices.”
Here’s a schedule of student activities planned for the first week of classes: