Loyola’s University Programming Board is working to keep the college experience alive for students both academically and socially during a time when students feel less connected than ever to campus life.
“When quarantine hit, I was pretty sure the college experience was going to be changed drastically,” said marketing and classical humanities junior, Eliza “Lizzie” Remillong. “I’m trying to make the best of everything. It’s been a difficult experience transferring to online learning, not being able to go to classes and talk to my teachers, and have to do it over Zoom.”
Before the pandemic, Remillong was active in her clubs, sororities, and other on-campus activities. But like many students, Remillong’s social plans with her friends and classmates have been limited to virtual and socially distant activities.
“A lot of it has been event planning. We’ve been coming up with different things to do. We’re going to go walk dogs and socially distance,” Remillong said. “We’ll get the Chrome extension and facetime while watching a Disney movie, which was a ton of fun.”
But, while she is able to socialize virtually, Remillong said it has been difficult to meet friends to do on-campus activities during the pandemic.
Loyola’s UPB director, Ashanti ‘Deon’ Wilson and her team have created virtual and socially distant activities for campus life. These activities help create a space where students can engage in activities other than academics.
“It’s really just about how to separate common academia and put it in a way that students do not feel constrained,” said Wilson. “Students were like, ‘Okay now my whole life is on my laptop.’ As the UPB we have to think outside of the box.”
While planning activities this past spring semester, Wilson said her and her team focused on finding a balance between academics and social needs for students to engage in campus activities.
Eric Lambert, Executive Director of the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities, which is an organization that promotes campus engagement, education, and entertainment to improve the quality of students’ school experience, according to APCA’s website. Lambert believes that UPB should use a “360 approach” that fits an individual student’s needs when planning activities.
“You have to consider the entire situation the student is in. Many of them have nowhere to go except the dormitories they live in. Many of them need resources provided for them to survive as a student,” Lambert said.
Creating relatable content on social media, using learning games where students can win college merchandise and having resources where students can access these activities is how to engage them in campus activities, according to Lambert.
“This is super important. We still have a lot of international students who weren’t able to return back to campus, students who were compromised and couldn’t come back, commuter students who don’t feel comfortable on the campus in general,” said Wilson.
The UPB brought back traditional events such as, Wolfpack Wednesdays, Third Friday and Lagniappe and introduced new programs to help students feel included in campus activities.
“The first Wolfpack Wednesday, we filled fanny packs with wet wipes, hand sanitizer,” Wilson said. “We also did an educational event that talked about budgeting, and we played budgeting games and trivia.
At the Plant with the Pack Lagniappe event, students had the opportunity to plant succulents while social distancing.
These events are offered virtually and in-person for the first 50 students who RSVP through HowlConnect and choose to social distance. Wilson said students who attend also have the chance to win prizes at these events and escape from online academics during their free time.
Wilson believes that the pandemic has been life-altering for students, but it allows them to have fun in new ways.
“With any college situation, it’s what you make of it. I’ve seen people at events who made new friends already, still have gotten that chance to enjoy themselves, and enjoy Loyola, even with the lower aspects,” said Wilson.