It may take a while for life to get back to normal but in the meantime, virtual services and activities offered at Southern Connecticut State University can give students a much-needed taste of campus life. From yoga, one-on-one tutoring sessions, and even cooking classes, these online experiences may not be the real thing, but they can help everyone get engaged, active, and even a little richer — thanks to Amazon and Uber Eats gift cards.
“The current situation is hard for students,” Sal Rizza, director, New Student and Sophomore Programs. “There are technological difficulties. The club events on campus are gone. We’re trying to bring a little life and enjoyment to students. There are a ton of activities happening.”
For starters, there’s SCSU Music Trivia, Free Money Tuesday!, The Dan Baronski Hour (when Peer Mentor and Orientation Ambassador Baronski devotes an hour to the current fashion drip and what’s hot in music), Self-Care Sunday, Cooking with Kyra (complete with a chef’s hat), Coffee Chat with Student Involvement, Digital Caricatures, Call of Duty Tournament, Foodie Friday…
And those are just some of the events for one week.
For students looking for get-up-and-go type activities, Andrew Marullo, coordinator of Campus Recreation and Fitness, said the office has tried hard to recreate the physical presence it has on campus. The first activity it organized after campus closed was a live stream workout with Southern President Joe Bertolino and his trainer, Hunter Fluegel, that drew in about 300 viewers.
Encouraged by the results, Marullo introduced the Southern Strong Step Challenge. To date, there are more than 200 students and 100 faculty and staff involved in this competitive challenge.
“It’s one of the biggest programs we’ve ever had,” Marullo said. “I think people are looking for something to do and to be a part of. Also, we have prizes for students that win social media challenges, like Amazon gift cards and Uber Eats gift cards. That helps, too.”
Through Campus Recreation and Fitness, students can drop in for mindful eating tips during Mindfulness Monday, workouts on Workout Wednesday, Free Yoga Friday, and more. “They can also watch 24 hours after it ends,” Marullo said. “We don’t want to inundate students, but we want them to know we’re still here for them.”
Student clubs may not be able to meet regularly on campus but Daphney Alston, assistant director for Student Involvement and Leadership Development, said the university is “really proud of how the clubs and organizations have tried to figure out this new normal” by hosting virtual meetings and events. (Students can get updates on weekly offerings in the “This Week @ Southern” emails.)
“The organizations are using different platforms to vote and hold elections,” Alston said. “Global Brigades hosted a few nights of cooking, simple stuff like Oreo Cheesecake Bars. There have been open mic nights, even a candle lighting. The Nursing Association hosted a Q&A with seniors. Students find a home at Southern through these clubs. They find their sense of self and build leadership. We want to keep that going.”
On campus or off, college life is as much academics as it is fun. Beyond online classes, students looking for academic support will find that the doors of the Academic Success Center (ASC) are still wide open.
“Even though they’re off campus, we want students to feel like they’re walking into the center,” Kathleen De Oliveira, ASC director, said. To accomplish that, the center’s hours have stayed the same and its tutors, 100 PALS (Peer Academic Leaders who focus on gateway and foundational courses), Academic Success Coaches, and more than 200 students workers all have mobilized online through Microsoft Teams.
“Success Navigators are the ones who traditionally help students sign in,” De Oliveira said.
“Now we’ve created a live chat through the website, and navigators will help students right there. It mirrors what they were doing in the physical location. And the center’s emails are being answered right away as well, for help booking appointments and sessions.”
Through videos and screenshare features, and Google whiteboards and Teams whiteboards, the center can recreate the sharing element of live study sessions. A virtual study hall, hosted through Webex, recreates the quiet ambiance of the on-campus study hall with the goal of helping students feel more motivated at home. For students not comfortable with online learning, coaches can provide helpful tips and tricks.
“The short answer is we’re here,” De Oliveira said. “We can always find someone to help students however they need. We want them to succeed. Just like before, all they have to do is come and ask.”
Students can find activities and services at Instagram: southernscsu