Slippery Rock University hosted its annual Weekend of Welcome (WOW), running from Aug. 12 through Aug. 26, through a mixture of virtual and physical events both across and entirely separate from campus.
Lauren Moran, director of Student Engagement and Leadership, assisted in overseeing the range of events available during this year’s WOW. Typically, Moran said, her role has been to facilitate events that take place in the evening, but recent events necessitated a more involved role this year.
“Our number one challenge was that we knew students were going to have issues with attendance,” Moran said. “We’re used to thousands of students showing up at the various WOW events, and this time – knowing that people were going to be at home, people were going to be moving in on different days, events were going to be virtual – we knew that we were going to struggle to get students to participate if we didn’t come up with a strategy around it.”
Moran worked to coordinate the schedule and keep incoming students engaged through the use of CORE. Using an incentive program called “WOW: Your Path to the Rock,” Moran said that she was able to coordinate with the various offices hosting events across campus.
“We use CORE, which is a student engagement platform, to track student progress through the various WOW sessions,” Moran said. “I actually built the path on the back end, creating the framework for it and what the incentives would entail.”
Some WOW events, such as the Outdoor Movie and Ask Me tents, still took place on campus. Moran said that it was her responsibility to write the guidelines for these in-person events, and to ensure that said guidelines were being followed.
“Some of those precautions include making sure the Ask Me tents had hand-sanitizer and spray available for the students who were working it, so that when they finished their shift they could disinfect their space,” Moran said. “They were all required to wear masks while they were working, and everything at the Ask Me tents was contactless.”
As for virtual events, Jayne Piskorik, assistant director of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Student Organizations, helped to bring Epic BINGO to an online format. In an email, Piskorik explained that students would play via ZOOM, with prizes being mailed directly to the winners or being available for pick-up in the Student Center.
“We will have the BINGO Callers cast through ZOOM,” Piskorik said in an emailed statement. “Students had the opportunity to pick up their BINGO cards and dobber outside of the Smith Student Center this week. Students who are home or don’t have an opportunity to pick up supplies can still join and play using a virtual card that we will provide.”
The biggest challenge, Piskorik said, was adjusting the event in response to COVID-19 and the state’s guidelines. Piskorik said that, while her office knew the event could not operate in the physical capacity it had in years past, they did consider options that involved in-person elements, though they ultimately decided against it for both safety and streamlining.
Going forward, Piskorik said that her office is taking the virtual transition in stride. Throughout the summer, Piskorik said that they had provided virtual programming to students both to practice for the coming semester and to give students something to do.
“All of our plans have changed – and that’s ok,” Piskorik said via email. “We’re working through what our annual events can look like, we’re being creative, and trying to provide the richest experience we can while staying safe and following guidelines.”