GV student organizations get creative finding ways to overcome challenges of fall semester


GVL / Britney Watkins

Trevor Hubert, Staff Reporter

As the Grand Valley State University community pushes forward through one of the most trying times in the school’s history, getting students more involved with extracurriculars has been one of the most difficult challenges of the 2020 school year.

With fewer students on campus, an aggressive COVID-19 containment plan and a Staying in Place order that was just been lifted on Oct. 1, student life groups have had to come up with new ways to draw in GVSU students. These new ways have been especially present in the Greek Life community, which finds itself in the midst of a semi-virtual, socially-distant recruitment season.

The early stages of the fall semester would normally consist of large events centered around making new friends and expanding community outreach. This year, fraternities and sororities, along with the rest of GVSU’s student life organizations, have had to find new ways to draw in students.

Some groups have been working hard and preparing for these challenges since the early days of the pandemic, like Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a co-ed fraternity on campus with a focus on community service. Fraternity President Madison Cruz said that the group has been successful because she reached out early and often.

“I’ve gotten more members than I ever have before, which is so shocking to me,” said Cruz.

She went on to say that the high interest rate can be attributed to her posting in GVSU student groups on Facebook before the school year even started. Being able to make an impact in the community has proven to be a challenge early on, though.

Alpha Phi Omega was working to create care packages for the homeless in Grand Rapids when the stay at home order went into effect, which prevented them from being able to finish their work.

“We’ve been evaluating and brainstorming how we can do what we love to do, which is community service,” said Cruz.

APO is currently meeting and working on service projects virtually, but Cruz was optimistic that the infusion of new members will give the group a strong foundation in the near future.

For the social fraternities at GVSU, some virtual recruitment events have included Zoom meetings, virtual trivia nights and “Call of Duty” tournaments. Interfraternity Council President Zack Kirshner knows the importance of active engagement within Greek Life, and the importance of doing it safely.

“It’s really going to define who we are as campus leaders by the way we return to campus safely,” said Kirshner.

As a whole, the Greek community at Grand Valley State has laid out a plan and followed through with it throughout the semester, making them a model for the other student groups on campus. This model includes establishing a Greek COVID-19 Task Force, participating in the #LakersTogether social media campaign and being open-minded about what the post-pandemic Greek Life experience might look like.

“While we recognize that this pandemic has permanently altered the college experiences of many, now and in the future, we hope that the technology available can help us become even more receptive to students’ needs,” said Greek Life Board President Chrystina Ochsankehl. “It would be wonderful to continue to offer virtual options for those who are uncomfortable or unable to attend certain events, such as in-person recruitment activities, but we still are looking forward to a time when we’re able to meet each other face to face.”

She went on to offer words of advice for all of GVSU’s student organizations, recognizing that it has never been more important for groups to work together to help each other.

“I would recommend that we all try to be sympathetic, to be receptive to the needs of our clubs and fellow students,” Ochsankehl said. “This includes encouraging one another and embracing these difficult times, collaborating with one another on an unprecedented level, and utilizing the resources and technology available to you from Grand Valley and elsewhere. Although it can be challenging to persevere through these times, remember that you have the power to positively impact our community and, hopefully, we’ll all come through this crisis as better people.”