Transitioning into an Online Student Center During the Pandemic

involvement fair

In March 2020, the Division of Student Affairs had a promising slate of in-person events lined up. But, with the emergence of COVID-19 and the subsequent move to remote instruction, professional staff and student organizations had to provide virtual programming in order to maintain student engagement. 

In this time of need, Student Affairs staff established partnerships that forged collaborative events and student opportunities, giving students the chance to come together in a difficult time.  

Karima Woodyard, the director of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership for Student Centers and Activities, recognized the exceptional work of Student Affairs since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Throughout the pandemic, Student Affairs provided opportunities grounded in collaboration with divisional and university partners,” said Woodyard. “Our divisional staff supported each other and really came through for students.” 

During the period of remote learning, students and departments were encouraged to utilize the getINVOLVED platform for recruitment and promotion of events. The platform offered consistent access to the over 700 opportunities that existed for them in the Rutgers–New Brunswick community, including organizations, departments, and more. 

Student Centers and Activities also hosted a Virtual Involvement Fair twice during the pandemic.  

“The Involvement Fair has always been one of my favorite opportunities for students,” Woodyard said. “It’s a chance for students to engage with each other, have some fun, and learn more about how to get involved.”  

Hundreds of students were in virtual attendance for the fairs, and 500 student organizations engaged with attendees. The annual Mark Leadership Conference, one of the largest and most well-known events in the region, also made a smooth transition to a virtual setting.

Organizations and departments within the Division of Student Affairs also adapted to the non-programmatic needs of students. The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) surveyed 15,000 students to gauge interest in pass/no credit course options, which were subsequently implemented in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 classes. RUSA also partnered with the Dean of Students to create the RUSA Recovery Fund, which accumulated over $500,000 available funding for students experiencing pandemic-related challenges. 

“Throughout the pandemic, Student Affairs provided opportunities grounded in collaboration with divisional and university partners,” said Woodyard. “Our divisional staff supported each other and really came through for students.” 

New Student Orientation and Student Centers and Activities worked together to create the Scarlet Knight Interest Communities, five thematic groups that spoke to the interests of incoming Fall 2020 students. These Communities functioned like chat rooms, giving students the opportunity to message and get to know each other in virtual environments. 

Student Centers and Activities also teamed up with Athletics, Student Health, and the Quell Foundation to screen a mental health documentary called “Let’s Remove the Stigma.” After each showing, the Quell Foundation and Rutgers community members led a discussion with students, fostering a judgement-free zone to normalize conversations around mental health. 

Woodyard had high praise for the dialogue that Student Affairs has formed with students.  

“As a division, we don’t stray away from listening and learning from our students. There have been Town Hall meetings and conversations for the administration to listen to the needs, desires, pitfalls, and challenges of our students,” she said. 

This dialogue between students and staff helped shape not only the virtual programming and services offered during remote instruction, but also the in-person offerings provided to students for the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semester. 

Financial support from alumni, parents, and friends helps us create the innovative learning opportunities that challenge students to be their best at Rutgers and beyond.

ABOUT THE DIVISION OF STUDENT AFFAIRS AT RUTGERS–NEW BRUNSWICK

Comprised of 29 areas, the Division of Student Affairs is committed to facilitating interactions that promote students' success and their personal and professional development. Learn more about our mission.