Student organization leaders highlight challenges of distance education on organizational development – The Racquet Press

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Student organizations at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the people who oversee them are among the many Americans affected by the recent COVID-19 outbreak. The switch to the virtual format has reorganized the priorities of active socio-educational and student organizations.

The UWL Pride Center has previously participated in classroom instructional work at the university. Pride Center peer educator Sara Seymour said the center has been able to maintain its presence in the UWL curriculum through online tools.

Photo provided by Sara Seymour.

“In fact, we have done everything possible to maintain the educational part of the purpose of the Pride Center. So we were still able to do a decent amount of awareness on campus, given all the circumstances. We’ve done a few online panels again, so we have students volunteering for a while, and we’ll either do a live panel for a class if they have a class meeting on Zoom, or we’ve done some recorded panels, where we’ll just record ourselves answering the questions as a group and then send it to the class. So it’s really cool that we’ve always been able to find ways to raise awareness through that, ”Seymour said.

Seymour said the goal of the Pride Center continues to be to create a safe space for people from the LGBTQ + community. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they said the methods for doing it have changed due to the home learning environment created by distance learning.

“But right now with the whole COVID-19 crisis, and everyone stuck inside and at home, we’ve kind of shifted our focus to social awareness in our group. And our students who come to us because there is no longer that space for them to socialize and interact with each other. Many of them come from small towns, or perhaps from low tolerance families, and do not get the support they need at home. So we are doing everything we can to try to reach out to our members in this way, to make sure they get the support they need, ”said Seymour.

Seymour said Pride Center leaders maintain communication with their members through formal Zoom chats to which all members are invited, and informally through other platforms such as group chats on social media and Discord servers. . Seymour added that Pride Center director Will Van Roosenbeek initiated communication with members individually to boost morale.

“He always sends little messages to individual people just to keep an eye on them or just to brighten up their day,” they said. “He’s posting on the Facebook page so people can see him, so Will [Van Roosenbeek] does a lot on its own to reach a lot of people personally.

The UWL Campus Activities Board (CAB) has also endeavored to integrate into the life of UWL students from their homes. CAB Grace Tester event coordinator said that during the COVID-19 outbreak, the organization’s goal has been to create activities that allow students to stay in touch with other students at home and doable activities during periods of brain break .

Photo provided by Grace Tester.

“When the school was in person, we would organize events at the union or other places on campus. Now that we are online, we publish through social media, whether through articles or posts about things that we offer. We were able to share interactive events and resources that students can then connect to. With physical events, we were only posting weekly due to the participation and interaction we were getting. However, now we are striving to reach students virtually while they are in distance education. That being said, we post daily to try and catch them during study breaks and interact with students who need more connection with the university. said Tester. “CAB always wants UWL students to always feel like they belong at UWL while connecting with them in a different and unique way.”

Both organizations are facing logistical challenges. The tester said CAB’s interaction with the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) has been put on hold, which has created problems in planning the alternative annual CAB-sponsored concert. She said the group is weighing their options and considering hosting the concert in the spring rather than the fall.

Seymour said the Pride Center is struggling to hire for the positions seniors graduate from and decide how to train and prepare new hires. Asked about the disposition of senior graduates, Seymour said that the annual Rainbow Graduation at the Pride Center, held annually to honor graduating members of the Pride Center, has been reformatted into an online platform to continue the continuing tradition. of the Center.

“Garrett Denning, our graduate assistant, made it his passion project. He does a lot to make sure everything runs smoothly online. So we always organize a mini graduation ceremony on Zoom for some of our graduates, those who wanted to participate. We always honor the fact that we have students who are graduating and Garrett has worked a lot, and we really appreciate him doing it, ”Seymour said.

Both groups are actively planning the fall semester and the changes that may continue.

Seymour is preparing for the possibility of another semester online in the fall.

Photo provided by Sara Seymour.

“If we continue to be online, I think there will be more pressure to maintain a stronger presence, and people both need and want student organizations to stay active, so we’ll just have to find ways. creative to stay active. Right now we’re in a kind of transition period, I know Will has been super gracious if I can’t devote some time to the Pride Center that he understands. But I think people will have a little higher expectations for next year since we get a little more familiar with the online format, and they’re going to expect more from the Pride Center. So even though I graduated, I tried to think of ways to make this possible for them, ”they said.

The tester is preparing for the fall semester workload and plans to start new programs for students.

“Next fall, we will be launching a mentoring program to further involve the campus in decision making. Currently, we have event coordinators and event committee leaders. Through mentorship, we will expand our decision makers to the entire campus. We will update the community with any future progress or changes we have for UWL, ”Tester said. “UWL students, we miss you. ”

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