When Buffalo State College students return to campus for the fall semester, they will have plenty of opportunities to get involved and meet new people—from trivia nights to leadership trainings.
However, these interactions will take place virtually, as the campus is making every effort to keep students safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our goal is to engage them while keeping them socially distanced,” said Timothy Gordon, vice president for student affairs.
Luke Haumesser introduces Student Leadership and Engagement in the Virtual Student Involvement Fair using Flipgrid.
When Gordon and his staff, including Luke Haumesser, associate director for student leadership and engagement, met with the executive boards of United Students Government (USG) and Greek Life over the summer, they emphasized the importance of recruiting and interacting with students through virtual platforms.
“We told them the campus you left is not the same campus you’re going to return to,” Haumesser said. “What stays the same is the need for belonging. The students realized we need their help with modeling, and they’ve been responsive.”
During orientation, students watched short videos about clubs and organizations in a virtual Student Involvement Fair through the platform Flipgrid.
“We’ve received positive feedback, especially from organizational leaders, who have found new and creative ways to showcase their organizations,” said Haumesser, who recommended the platform after reading that kindergarten teachers have successfully used Flipgrid to connect with students and their parents.
“I saw a lot of opportunity there,” he said. “It’s very user-friendly. I realized it could be transferred to higher education.”
Gordon noted that the State University of New York (SUNY) conducted a systemwide showcase of best practices and models for virtual programming. They recognized Haumesser and David Cox, assistant dean for student leadership and engagement, for their initiative with Flipgrid.
“We’re one of the first institutions to introduce this platform,” Gordon said.
The Bengal Stripes Leadership Program seeks to prepare students and develop the essential skills necessary to be personally, professionally, and academically successful.
Multiple Opportunities to Connect
Students interesting in honing their leadership skills this fall can find opportunities through the Bengals Stripes Leadership Program, which will be offered completely online.
Through virtual programming, students can also tap into civic engagement opportunities, participate in a yoga or meditation class, and engage in traditionally in-person events that have moved to a virtual space, such as the Anne Frank Project.
And students with an affinity for online video games, such as Super Smash Bros. and Fortnite, can participate in cross-campus tournaments.
“What’s exciting is that this is happening across SUNY,” Haumesser said. “So, the top-tiered students on our campus can compete against students at other SUNY schools, too.”
Gordon said that one benefit of the virtual format is that commuters can get more involved than they could previously.
“The platforms are flexible,” he said, “and will allow students to interact with one another in new ways.”
Throughout the semester, Buffalo State will continue to reinforce the message of virtual engagement with the bigger picture in mind.
“Hopefully, we can stay apart so that we can be together eventually,” Gordon said. “We want students to forge connections that they can later turn into in-person interactions.”
Photo by Bruce Fox, campus photographer.