How a university’s welcome weekend moved online
COVID robbed this fall’s first-year college students of prom, high school graduation, the nerve-wracking thrill of campus move-in weekend and other time-honored traditions.
To preserve some of the excitement around starting college, Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, has gone online with its Welcome Weekend, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
With COVID forcing the university to move the start of in-person instruction back a month, administrators wanted students to begin connecting with each other and with faculty virtually, says Deanna Wagner, dean of engagement and success.
“One of the things we know is most important for a student’s ability to stay at Capital, to persist and graduate is their connection with faculty members outside of the classroom,” Wagner says.
Moving Welcome Weekend online has required the creation of a lot of Zoom links so students and families can drop in to the various virtual activities that will take place.
Students can meet with faculty in their planned majors and also talk to staff in study abroad, career development, and community service.
Wagner and her team have also created a “Capitalizing on You” series of TED Talk-style sessions. Faculty and students can talk about how to get involved in campus activities and organizations virtually, and how to stay creative when learning online in front of a computer for several hours at a time, Wagner says.
“It’s about joining a diverse community and being comfortable and safe in your own identity,” she says.
Each year, on the Sunday before classes start at Capital, administrators open all campus buildings so students can start learning their way around campus and get answers to other questions they might have as the semester begins.
Wagner and her team have moved this online by setting up a Zoom link for every building so students can take virtual tours.
Wagner’s team has also been using social media, particularly Twitter and Instagram, to connect with students.
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Previously, social media was used mainly to promote events but this summer there has been more direct-messaging between staff and students.
Wagner’s team produced an Instagram story with various information about starting the semester, and received about 3o questions from students, she says.
All posts use the hashtag “#CapFamConnected.”
“Social media may have a different and wider lens than email,” she says.