Social changes on BW campus create alternatives for student engagement

With the health precautions made on the Baldwin Wallace campus, there is new concern for long-lasting effects that the pandemic may have on the social interaction within the community.

Due to the implementation of limited social gatherings, the number of active students on campus has significantly decreased compared to past years, and has created less student-community engagement. This has created virtual options for student involvement within the clubs and engagement programs that BW has to offer.

As most events during the pandemic are unforeseen, there are some benefits, but drawbacks as well, which can have long-term effects on the ways we interact with one another, said Professor Theron Quist, Chair of the Sociology department.

Ultimately, the outcome of the pandemic is going to make people more technologically advanced as well as better communicators, according to Quist. However, the struggles that students are facing are not all positives. “There won’t be as many internships, and not as many relationships or connections that students can make. I think it’s going to slow us down for a while,” he said

The concern for the lack of student engagement and interaction within classes and in general socialization in the BW community is on the rise, he said. Aside from the barrier of mask-wearing on campus, there isn’t a place for students to congregate, eat, or spend time with one another.

“For commuter students especially, it is extremely hard to make any campus connections. Clubs are doing things differently and not as actively, which makes it harder to stay involved,” said Quist.

The David & Frances Brain Center for Community Engagement has been actively working toward student involvement on campus given the current circumstances of the pandemic, said Julie Robinson, Associate Director of the Brain Center. The core of their work at the center is engaging with the students and is primarily led by students at BW.

The Brain Center aims to engage students through service, service learning, philanthropy, and voter engagement. Their primary goal is to address community needs as well as encourage students to become lifelong citizens that will continue to contribute to the community, she said.

“There is so much need in our community at any time, and we feel that it’s important for our students to be a part of addressing those needs,” said Robinson. “Doing work in the community is a valuable learning experience for students as well as an opportunity to give their time.”

A major difficulty the center is facing as a result of the pandemic is the absence of volunteers through their community partners and student participation, as the guidelines do not allow for this interaction, according to Robinson. However, they have been able to offer virtual community engagement alternatives.

Recently, they have transitioned their Alternative Break, Weekly Service, and Civic LEAD programs to virtual options and have been conducting these programs via Zoom meetings for tutoring and mentoring opportunities.

“Our biggest challenge right now is getting students to log on and participate in some of the programs we’re offering,” said Robinson. “It seems that students are wanting to engage with the BW and broader community, but it is very difficult to spend so much time virtually.”

The Brain Center, along with other clubs and programs on campus, plan on continuing remote gatherings to keep the students of BW as involved as possible during this time.