A major part of the work of Meredith’s Office of Student Leadership and Service (SLS) is providing opportunities for students to participate in College-sponsored programs outside of the classroom.
Student events remain a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, because of the positive impact of social engagement and participation in campus activities. In order to still provide student events, SLS established and implemented a set of organization guidelines to encourage planning of campus activities with necessary precautions. These include ensuring adherence to the “Three Ws,” including wearing face coverings and physical distancing.
Holding in-person events outside has been encouraged, and a virtual option is required for students who either prefer not to meet in person or who aren’t able to do so. Another popular option has been to adapt events for student organizations into virtual models, but it has been important to also provide some in-person events, while limiting attendance within North Carolina public health guidance.
Virtual events that have been held include a series of sessions intended to welcome new first-year students, the Fall election process, class meetings, and a Best of the Triangle showcase. In-person options have included an MC Block Party featuring music and a movie showing, Food Truck Fridays with takeaway food, and three Big Sister Little Sister Welcome Socials.
Cheryl Jenkins, director of student leadership and service, said her office has heard from many students that they want opportunities to get away from their computer screens in order to connect with each other.
“We already know that social connections are important for all students. When many students are feeling some isolation and a need to manage their stress, we are offering low risk activities to help them feel connected,” Jenkins said. “We are providing ways that students can socialize and participate in student organizations and student events/activities in responsible ways.”
A New Opportunity for Leadership
Student leaders are involved in planning their class traditions, the Big Sis/Little Sis program, and organization-sponsored events just as they are in a typical year. Adapting to COVID-19 restrictions has provided these students with new opportunities to build their leadership skills as they adapt a typical event.
When planning an in-person event, leaders of each student organization are required to meet with a member of the SLS staff for a consultation to ensure COVID precautions are in place and that they have the supplies needed for a successful and safe event. These supplies include hand sanitizer stations, event signage, disinfecting wipes, card readers for attendance tracking and contact tracing, and directional/”stand here” indicators like cones/wooden stakes/flagging materials.
Decisions are still being made about major traditions, such as Cornhuskin’. The main events of this annual tradition are moving to the spring semester. New dates are expected to be announced later this month. From November 2-6, the original dates for Cornhuskin’, the Meredith Recreation Association will host a Spirit Week, which will include a Cornhuskin’ 75th anniversary celebration. Final plans about both these events will be communicated as details are completed.
Ring Dinner will provide students with an opportunity to celebrate together virtually. Students who sign up will participate in a live-streamed ceremony that celebrates the students receiving their class rings. Each person who signs up will also receive a gift with her registration.
SLS surveyed students to gauge what they might want for virtual and in-person activities. The highest ranked item was food trucks, which supported Meredith's efforts to provide Food Truck Friday for students on October 2 with several different options. Students had to RSVP and food was for takeaway only.
Attendance at events, both in-person and virtual, has varied this year as students balance their class obligations and fight Zoom fatigue with their interest in connecting with other students through events.
“With the increase in demands during this time, students are intentionally choosing which activities they are participating in,” said Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Service Catie McAnulty. “Students have a more intentional focus when making their choices related to the relevance and value that participating in a given campus activity has for them.”