The Office of Student Life team posing for a photo. (OSL Photo Credit)

From on-campus to online: how the Office of Student Life navigates the remote experience

Temporarily gone are the days of washable paint on the CTR building windows, vendor events and decorated movie nights with crowds of students flooding the hallways. Laughter currently doesn’t fill the meeting room, but that hasn’t stopped the Office of Student Life from supporting the campus community remotely.

The three branches of the OSL consist of student organization, the activities board and student government, each working together to serve students by independently setting goals and coming together through teamwork. 

The student organizations board organizes club events and collaborates with graphics coordinators for club promotion. The activities board conducts meetings with vendors to create contracts, addresses budget concerns for virtual events and includes marketing, student outreach and design. The student government branch identifies student concerns, presents solutions and communicates with college administrators to move forward with implementing ideas. 

“The way that we communicate and the way that we work together as a team and branches is pretty efficient as of right now,” said Student Organization Coordinator Madison Rannow.

Following the path to community involvement has tested the adaptability of the team and brought learning experiences. The OSL’s strategies for addressing student engagement have changed, along with their ability to establish meaningful communication without interpersonal relationships formed on campus.

Student Advocacy Senator May Tran addresses the virtual environment and productivity.

“One thing the entire team has struggled with is that we all work in different times and different ways, and so we had to grow to learn and love this completely new style of communication between us,” said ASPCP President Zak Swanson.

One form of communication is Whatsapp, a messaging application that remains separate from texting. Branch members handling extensive issues or official documentation communicate through email, occasionally scheduling additional Zoom meetings for topics that require attentive discussion.

“In our meetings, we always start off with a check-in question so we’re all comfortable, and it’s just like a really fun atmosphere, everyone is really non-judgmental, really positive and open,” said Rannow.

Swanson discusses the challenge to create personal connections between team members.

To foster personal relationships within the team, in the Fall one of the virtual bonding activities included playing the popular online game Among Us. While the OSL tries to substitute on-campus relationships, they’ve also noticed that students aren’t as involved with clubs and general events.

“I think the biggest adversity I face is the mindset of students that we can’t do it (create clubs) online. And that’s one of the things I would like to express to students is that we can do it online, it’s gonna be different,” said Student Organization Coordinator Joshua Boiles.

SOCs like Rannow and Boiles support clubs with scheduling events, club promotion and activities. Boiles mentioned that it’s difficult to discover coworkers and student personalities online to develop friendships. After the downturn in club interest, the SOCs’ plan was to respond with events that prove clubs can be organized during quarantine.

“This year online, the student engagement has been a little bit lower because I think that the transition from in-person classes to online classes took a really large toll on most students,” said Rannow.

Vice President Karen Nunez-Michel of the activities board speaks on student engagement.

Understanding that students are already using screens for classes, the activities board uses surveys to identify better times for events and aims to connect students with the community through engaging virtual interactions. Student engagement coordinators collaborate with members in marketing and design to understand the interests of students and identify areas for improvement. Planning events requires choosing vendors who connect with students and include interactive ideas.

Student government members include the EDI senator, student advocacy senator and the operations senator who create goals to meet student concerns. They’ve created a video series for navigating through college online to support students, ranging from the topics of activating student emails, accessing the tutoring center or finding textbooks through the bookstore.

“We understand that there are already resources being provided a lot on that topic, but we want it to be all in one place, all of it directed by students because, you know, we’re students ourselves,” said Student Advocacy Senator May Tran.

Surveys and Raider Report event notifications via student email, along with Instagram and Canvas, are primary resources for the OSL to maintain connections with students. Moreover, the Raider Report is a biweekly newsletter that includes virtual events and activity links, and they recently designed an event calendar for students.

Swanson mentioned that the Puyallup OSL wants to coordinate with the Fort Steilacoom Office of Student Life to expand student outreach and support since there’s not as much separation between campuses online.

Following their mission to serve students, the OSL will occasionally host open support forum meetings through Zoom designed for students to attend and voice their concerns with the college. To connect with OSL activities and become involved with virtual campus life, join their Canvas course or follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Interviews and article by @elissapnwnews on Twitter.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Elissa Blankenship

From on-campus to online: how the Office of Student Life navigates the remote experience

by Elissa Blankenship time to read: 3 min