Ohio University’s transition to online classes isn’t stopping student organizations from staying involved.
The Student Personnel Association (SPA), an organization for Ohio University students interested in higher education and student affairs, has been using the video-conference app Zoom to host virtual meetups for its members.
“We are working hard to maintain a community of support for everyone through regular social events, because in times like these, community and connection are assets to one's well-being,” said Emma Hage, president of SPA.
Hage, a first-year graduate student in The Patton College of Education’s College Student Personnel master's program, said the organization hosted a virtual dance party using Zoom on April 3. Members of SPA added songs to a collaborative Spotify playlist and danced together from their homes.
One of the songs was “Cha Cha Slide,” by DJ Casper, which members renamed the “SPA SPA Slide” during the online meetup. The organization posted the (@ohio_spa), encouraging friends of the organization to follow along even after the event.
In addition to the virtual dance party, the SPA executive board hosted multiple Zoom “hangouts” in recent weeks.
“We are trying to create spaces for self-care, compile resources for professional development, and plan virtual events to celebrate and offer some closure to the members who are preparing to leave Ohio University,” said Hage.
SPA’s programming supplements The Patton College of Education’s College Student Personnel coursework and aims to provide professional development and social opportunities.
When Ohio University announced the move to remote and online instruction through the end of spring semester, Anthony Trimpe, SPA’s 2020 social engagement coordinator, recognized the need to establish digital, social spaces for members to communicate.
“When we moved meetings and activities to the virtual world, one of the first meetings we held for SPA was a simple check-in to see the impact this situation has had on well-being,” said Trimpe, who is also a first-year College Student Personnel graduate student.
“We identified that many people simply needed a social space to talk with others,” said Trimpe. “Members stated that they initially felt alone and struggled with the drastic change in social interactions.”
After holding the initial virtual check-in with members, Trimpe, Hage, and other members of SPA’s executive board worked to plan regular digital meetups to boost members’ morale.
Moving to a virtual format has also allowed for more flexibility in meeting times.
“It has actually been helpful in certain ways because different people are able to attend the virtual events we plan,” said Hage.
Chais Michael, a first-year graduate student in the College Student Personnel Program, has attended every virtual SPA event this semester.
“This time in our lives has been challenging, but knowing that SPA has been doing their best to host an event at least once a week gives me something to look forward to,” said Michael. “Whether that be a hangout Zoom meeting, a dance party, or a virtual lunch, I've made an effort to be involved, as I know they are all working hard to provide these events.”
Another part of SPA’s mission is for first-year graduate students to become closer with second-year graduate students, according to Michael.
The increased participation in online meetings is allowing students to build new connections and friendships within the organization, all from home.
Since many second-year graduate students in SPA plan to graduate in May, Hage says that her executive board is planning more virtual events to “celebrate and offer some closure to the members who are preparing to leave Ohio University.”
Amid the transition to online instruction, SPA’s executive board is succeeding at digitally fulfilling its goals for the semester.
“The camaraderie among people in our program is strong, and we value the time we have with each other,” said Trimpe. “Despite the uncertainty and heightened stress that has occurred during this time, I have recognized that our members are flexible, adaptable, and will be resilient.
“I’m proud of those in our program and cannot wait to celebrate their future successes,” he added.