Like all of you, I’ve learned many things over the past 15 months and those lessons have changed me forever in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Many people suffered greatly during this pandemic, most managed to survive, and a few flourished. Wherever you found yourself, I’m sure you too have changed, but are those changes good and are they long-lasting?
I was one of the few that flourished during the past 15 months and the biggest reason I can give for that is the fact that I thrive with change. Because COVID forced us to change just about everything we did in both our personal and professional lives, anyone that doesn’t like to change, whether good or bad, experienced a much more difficult time during the pandemic. Everything from learning how to use Zoom and connecting virtually, to shopping online and working from home made us rethink what we did on a daily basis.
Here are three positive changes that have occurred in me in my role as a student activity professional because of the pandemic:
1. Less Stress
Prior to COVID I tended to stress quite a bit over event details. Whenever we had a large event or speaker scheduled I would have many sleepless nights trying to ensure all the details were foolproof and flawless. This also meant many “meetings” with presenters, spreadsheets filled with information sorted in 15 different ways, a plethora of volunteers, and enough signage to direct you from Massachusetts all the way to California.
When events went virtual I found myself embracing the inevitable “glitches” such as sound problems, lost internet connections (this happened to me on three occasions), presenters forgetting that they were in a different time zone (this happened once), and the vast variety of issues we never imagined could ever be a problem. Instead of stressing about what might go wrong, I expected problems and simply learned to roll with the punches.
When we do get back to in-person events on our campus, yes, I will have many more logistics to oversee again, but I am determined to not let them create sleepless nights and stress-filled days for me again.
2. More Flexibility
Creating virtual events meant being innovative and not following the same pattern or schedule we had in the past. Our in-person events typically occurred Monday through Thursday at 12:30 pm with the occasional evening or Friday event thrown in based on our class schedule. When our classes changed the format to primarily virtual I discovered that the 12:30 pm time slot wasn’t always the best time for an event, so my calendar is now very unpredictable. We may have a 3 pm event on Tuesday, a 5:30 pm SGA meeting on Wednesday, and a workshop on Friday morning at 10 am.
Creating flexibility on my calendar has allowed me to reach students that might not normally attend events such as web students that would never have been on campus, student parents that were home with young children, and students in high-demand programs that had little time for co-curricular events. For our campus, virtual events will always remain an option, even after we are fully back on campus and allowed to host in-person programs so that we can continue to meet the needs of our students that don’t follow our standard schedule. My schedule may never be routine again, but I’m perfectly okay with that.
3. Better Connection with Students
Ironically enough, because of the need to social distance and conduct all of our student interactions via Zoom I have found that my connection with students has vastly improved. While I might not have “seen” as many students as I would on campus, those that have come to events and programs consistently have been much more authentic and real in their interactions with myself and their peers. I have seen students in their homes, met their children, siblings, significant others, and pets all while allowing them to see who I really am too. We have built a rapport through these meetings as we’ve traveled on buses and in cars, met in kitchens and living rooms, and been interrupted by children and pets all while connecting on Zoom.
My hope is to continue to stay connected to my students in a real way, not just as an advisor at their college, but as a real person that has real struggles every day just like they do. I have never considered myself to be an empathetic person, but meeting students where they are at has definitely given me a more compassionate attitude and I certainly hope that doesn’t change.
How has COVID changed you? Did you resent the changes or did you embrace them and move forward? Did you experience positive changes that you plan to keep in place going forward? Has your attitude about change evolved or do you still struggle with change? Maintaining a positive attitude and going with the flow is often the best way to handle unexpected change; be an example to your peers and your students by making the best of what COVID has dealt you and moving forward. Students look up to us as advisors, be sure to give them a great reason to look.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 edition of Campus Life Trends magazine. Reprinted with permission from the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.
The Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities, a membership organization aimed at helping student life departments make an impact on their campuses with quality education experience, affordable entertainment, and community service initiatives, publishes Campus Life Trends magazine three times each year.