Each year at the beginning of each semester, many individuals on campus enjoy attending the Office of Student Life’s (OSL) Campus Life Nights, known this year as Laker Involvement Fairs. This year amid COVID-19 and the governor’s crowd-size gathering regulations, the OSL decided to hold the multiple evening sessions virtually through Zoom meetings.
Each night of the event focused on specific organizations and had meeting times for attendees to choose from based on what they were interested in. Across the three fairs, GVSU had 220 organizations sign up, and 665 students attend. According to Eric Stevens, Assistant Director of Student Organizations at the OSL, attendance was steady across all three events.
“We had fewer student participants than I would have hoped for,” Stevens said. “The first weekend on campus is a busy one after settling in and students have a lot of activities to choose from. We are hoping that our next round of fairs will drum up more student participation since they will be more established at that time.”
The three nights split up organizations into categories including academic and professional, professional fraternities, honor societies, interfaith, cultural, service & advocacy, student senate, media, performing arts, special interest, and fraternities & sororities.
For many student organizations, the virtual format of the events presented new opportunities to engage with students, and even though most would have preferred in-person meetings they felt that prioritizing student and staff safety was pertinent.
RaKya Collins, President of the GVSU chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), said that the virtual platform was still engaging and productive for many students and organizations, despite the disruption of the pandemic. The NSLS is the largest leadership-focused honor society in the country, with 717 chapters and over 1 million members. The GVSU NSLS chapter has been active since 2017.
“I decided to participate virtually because in order to build membership you have to be able to adapt to any situation,” Collins said. “Personally, this was my first year at the table for an organization and it was interesting to show a PowerPoint that I created that gave a brief overview of what we stand for, what we do, and how to get in. My biggest goal for our chapter is to increase membership, and the virtual event made it possible for people to interact safely and still be able to learn about our organization.”
For student organizations, the OSL has created guidelines for things like meetings, travel, mask-wearing, funding, club sports and performance-based organizations. All in-person student organization meetings or events are required to adhere to GVSU’s face covering policy.
There are multiple Involvement Fairs scheduled the first few weeks of the fall semester. Each Involvement Fair will include different organizations or departments. RSVP on the OSL website to receive a reminder and link directly to your student email about event updates, and to learn more information about specifics.
Stevens said that the OSL’s main concern is keeping students and staff safe, and made the decision to move the majority of their events online. He said they are continuing to create more ways to keep students engaged on campus and online.
“Our goal for this year is to provide safe and inclusive involvement opportunities for all students, regardless if they’re taking classes virtually or in-person,” Stevens said. “We are creating multiple events and opportunities (both virtual and in-person) so students can feel like they are part of the GVSU community no matter where they are. We are Lakers together standing apart.”