Housing and Resident Life’s online community seeks to connect students


Courtesy / Healthline

Katherine Arnold, Staff Reporter

With traditional social life taking a hit this year, students are still looking for ways to connect with each other. For those looking to play games or chat about streaming binges online, Grand Valley State University is looking to help.

Housing and Residence Life (HRL) has begun hosting a variety of Discord servers — online chatrooms with audio and video chatting capabilities — spanning a wide variety of activities and topics. From personal wellness to Minecraft to American Sign Language, each weekday features live events where students are able to connect with other students through common interests in a casual environment.

“We have recognized how much of the casual atmosphere has been taken out of school recently,” said Kristen Evans, HRL Assistant Director of Recruitment and Training. “We hope that these events are something that students can rely on by having a schedule that lasts over the whole semester — both (for) those who stop by once and those who want to attend every week.”

This style of event is something relatively new to the GVSU community, different from an event hosted through other campus organizations. Each video session lasts for only one hour, and there is no weekly requirement to attend. To register, students can simply find the Unwind from the Grind page on the HRL’s website at www.gvsu.edu/housing, filling out a form and creating a Discord account (if they don’t already have one).

“There is no pressure in attending these sessions,” Evans said. “Students aren’t expected to prepare anything in advance and it is simply a space for people with similar interests to engage. There’s not a commitment in the way that a student organization would require a commitment.”

There are a wide variety of topics each week: arts and crafts, Disney, Bachelor Nation, personal wellness, sign language, NCAA basketball, Among Us and travel. Each group seeks to connect students interested in that topic with students who have the same passion, but the HRL aren’t limited to only the current options.

“We can always add a group if there is an area of interest,” Evans said. “If a group of students are interested in a different topic, Discord allows us to easily add a new channel of interest.”

How is each individual session structured? For example, the crafting session is held at 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, with a different topic chosen and a different Resident Assistant hosting each week. On Feb. 16, the topic was DIY crafting with a particular focus on origami.

This atmosphere was perfect for both the serious crafter and the newbie, allowing those who were interested to start a new craft, while allowing others the opportunity to share their crafting experiences and expertise.

Future crafting topics include a wide variety from vision boarding and crochet to DIY and show and tell. All are planned and structured around student interest and ideas, so if there is something specific that you want to see, you can suggest it as a future topic.

Other events, like the Bachelor Nation session, are framed around a more specific and consistent theme. Each week, this group meets to discuss the newest episode of the Bachelor and all of the new drama. Unwind from the Grind has a variety of such topics, so students can pick and choose whatever they feel like doing that week.

“There is a consistency and safety in having weekly meetings, even virtually, that was strongly missed during the fall semester,” said Evans. “If two students are able to connect through these sessions and end up becoming friends, that is considered a win on our part.”