The first of May in any other year would see students gather together on campus to feel the hints of summer in the air and enjoy their last few weeks with friends before the semester’s end.
This May, students are separated from campus and stuck at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But while they may no longer be able to meet in person for clubs and events, the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development (SILD) is working to keep Framingham State students connected and engaged virtually.
Continuing to work directly with student organizations, Director of SILD Sara Gallegos said the office has been in regular communication with them each week.
“SILD staff worked with each group to help them put on virtual programming,” she said. “Each group has made their own decisions on how they want to continue in the virtual world of events.”
Many of these virtual events and engagement opportunities can be found on Ramlink for interested students to join. Gallegos highlighted several.
Every Saturday, the Student Union Activities Board (SUAB) is hosting BINGO, trivia, and virtual caricature artist events on Zoom for students’ entertainment.
And every day, The Hilltop Players are holding virtual video contests and posting themed pictures through Instagram.
WDJM 91.3 FM might be off the radio waves, but its DJs have kept the turntables spinning through the station’s Spotify channel. Students can participate in playlist contests to vote on which songs air next.
Every other Tuesday, the Student Government Association still comes together for its Senate meetings through Zoom to discuss and resolve student issues. Its Spring elections closed April 17.
“We have been engaging with all elected students to get them transitioned into their roles,” said Gallegos.
The Gaming Club hosted a “Jackbox Party” over Discord, and the Math Club plans to host a “Math Magic” event with the Museum of Math.
Conversations about the pandemic and its effects on life have been held by Motivation Intersectionality Solidarity Sisterhood (M.I.S.S.) as well as the Students of Caribbean Ancestry Club.
And The Gatepost, while unable to bring its articles to print, continues to meet every Thursday night on Zoom to copy edit and publish issues online for students and faculty alike to read on Fridays.
SILD itself has organized and hosted events as well, Gallegos said. These include free online programs offered by its event sponsors, promotions of online museum tours, as well as other arts and entertainment opportunities.
Some academic departments are also holding get-togethers online for students to join. Every Wednesday, the English department hosts a virtual “Coffeehouse” for students interested in reading poetry and conversing with fellow classmates and faculty.
Online officer transition workshops are being held on Zoom by SILD for newly registered officers of student organizations to attend, Gallegos said. “We have offered three different times for the one workshop so we can give as much opportunity for everyone to attend.”
“SILD’s number one priority is supporting students in whatever their needs are to succeed,” said Gallegos. “So if that means talking full-out planning strategy for fall events, or just having a conversation checking in on the student, that is what our staff is doing.”
Adapting SILD’s work to the new virtual setting was made easier with Ramlink, the University’s engagement platform, already hosted online prior to the pandemic, Gallegos said.
One challenge has been finding ways for student office assistants as well as the Student Coordinator of Events to maintain work hours online, she added. “Unfortunately, we can’t give them the same hours like before.”
The office has been working creatively to find projects for these student employees to work on, she said.“They have all been great in helping SILD out during this time!”
“We in SILD would like to thank all the student organizations for this entire academic year,” Gallegos said. “These groups have provided such great community opportunities for everyone pre- and post-pandemic.”
Gallegos said she is further working with seniors as their class adviser and explained there is a University group dedicated to recognizing the Class of 2020.
All seniors are invited to attend a Virtual Toast to the Class of 2020 with President F. Javier Cevallos May 15. Those who pre-registered will receive a customized toasting flute.
Many departments are further planning to host virtual honors and awards ceremonies for students, Cevallos said in an email.
And while postponed for the time being, “the University still has every intention of holding an in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 at some point in the future,” he added.
Gallegos said, “We look forward to working with everyone in the new academic year and we wish all seniors good luck!”