Pandemic Programming: Engaged, Connected, and Socially Distanced

Summer 2020 was filled with unknowns, but students made clear their fervent wish to return to campus, and fall brought a large entering class. The protocols that enabled students’ return necessitated curtailment of most public events, including intercollegiate sports contests, fine and performing arts presentations, and public lectures. But the University stepped up with creatively revised offerings to keep students engaged and connected while socially distanced.

PSU transitioned to remote learning just after spring break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Office of Community Impact (OCI) organized volunteers to collect personal protective equipment (PPE) items for Speare Memorial Hospital and the Central NH Public Health Network. OCI has continued to engage students online through Zoom and social media programs and posts, including weekly Partner Spotlights, Let’s Talk Tuesdays, Social Action Toolkit, Fridays on the Farm, and Virtual Volunteerism programs.

The Office of Student Life’s activities have included scheduling a group climb at the University’s new indoor climbing wall in the Human Performance Center, encouraging students to exercise their voting rights, leading the creation of a new Office of Minority Student Resources, and presenting virtual workshops such as “The Freedom to be Yourself,” which gave members of the PSU community an opportunity to come together to talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Plymouth State has also continued to guide its resurgent Greek life population. “We have created a robust policy for the community that supports continued recruitment, risk management education, academic standards, and a detailed expansion process,” says Director of Student Life Tevis Bryant.

Room and board are always critical to student satisfaction, and PSU staff worked diligently to help students adjust to campus life and engage in community development opportunities. “As we opened all of the residence halls, the community advisor staff facilitated floor meetings in all of their communities. These were offered in a virtual format to support social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions,” says Amanda Grazioso, director of residential life and dining. In addition to these and various other welcome activities in the residence halls, Grazioso’s staff facilitated dozens of community experiences that support PSU’s Habits of Mind learning outcomes (Purposeful Communication, Problem Solving, Integrated Perspective, and Self-Regulated Learning).

The pandemic also prompted numerous dining enhancements, including new take-out options, picnic tables, and outdoor eating spaces in order to reduce the density of indoor eateries. PSU Din- ing provides a balance of pre-made and made-to-order options to accommodate student schedules and desires, and the Chef ’s Table and Breakfast-All-Day stations opened to add even more variety. “Love, Chartwells” events, including make-your-own s’mores, popcorn, hand- made apple cider donuts, and a Southern Comfort night gave students many ways to enjoy food and fun with friends.