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Dickinson College Student Clubs Continue to Build Community Online Despite Global Pandemic

Dickinson athletics zoom

Images of student activity Zoom conferences.

Dickinson's Infernos a cappella group members still find a way to sing together after "Movin' Out."

During stressful times, students, administrators work to keep students connected 

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

As professors and administrators transitioned to online instruction in response to the spread of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Dickinson’s Division of Student Life worked behind the scenes to help students remain connected remotely through student clubs and organizations.

Getting it done

For the Esports Club and Gaming Club, which meet weekly via Discord, going fully online was a breeze.

“I actually think being virtual is more convenient,” says Ian Wong ’22 (computer science), one of about 15 active Esports Club participants, now working remotely to assemble a League of Legends team. He explains that before spring break, gamers had to pack up a mouse, keyboard, laptop and mousepad to attend in-person meetups. When in-person classes moved online after spring break, club members were able to continue to play without interruption since, at the start of the academic year, the club had already set up a Discord server to meet and play.

For others, it wasn’t as easy, at first, to get used to online-only interaction, but they’re getting the work done.

SCC officer Julia Chandler '22 connects with club members from her home in Baltimore.

Sports Club Council officer Julia Chandler '22 connects with club members from her home in Baltimore.

The Sport Club Council’s Julia Chandler '22 (Englishmedieval & early modern studies) says that while club members can’t play virtually, it’s well worth the effort to remain connected with friends, perhaps by getting on a Zoom call with teammates or watching a game together online. Working remotely, the council passed legislation through EngageD that will change the way it allocates funds to sports clubs and is working on a how-to manual for the council's student executives.

Student Senate also continues its regular business via emails and weekly videoconferences and has already taken several remote votes. As director of club finance, Colin Black ’22 (political science) and his committee are remotely hashing out club budgets for the next school year. “It remains our goal to represent every student at Dickinson in any way that we possibly can, especially now,” Black says. “The senate has really stepped up during this difficult time to ensure that everything is getting done.”

A handful of students contribute online-only Dickinsonian articles from home, including exchange student Tessa Lemke ’21, who corresponded with international students still on campus to report on social distancing measures in place. And the “voice of Dickinson college” is not silenced, as select DJs for the college radio station, WDCV, use Audacity to record their shows. Some, like Jonah Skeen ’21 (philosophy), are even contributing their own songs for on-air play.

The DJs send the podcasts, via OneDrive, to WDCV technical coordinator Taylor Garrett, who masters them for broadcast in her home studio and then remotely uploads them onto an automated playlist, hosted on a computer in Carlisle, along with archived WDCV material. These include popular shows by community DJs that have aired for many years, like Spotlight on Sinatra, and syndicated shows like Democracy Now!

Jonah Skeen records his radio show from home.

Jonah Skeen '21 records his radio show from home.

Pivot to online events

MOB presented its first virtual event, Just Ask Jade LIVE!, on April 4, via Twitch. Students sent questions to Olivia Riordan ’21 (music, American studies), who relayed them to drag performer Jade DeVere for a livestreamed Q&A. A second livestream event is now in the works.

Dickinson’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership & Success is hosting livestreams of prerecorded speaker broadcasts and discussion watch parties. And last week, the Infernos’ Zoom performance of Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out” made a big splash on Dickinson’s social media channels.

The Dance Theatre Group has been hosting workout and conditioning dance classes via Zoom twice a week, and the Mermaid Players presented a Digital Cabaret playlist, featuring songs and puppet performances by students and faculty; a Zoom play reading; and bring-your-own-popcorn watch party. The cabaret was followed by a virtual bring-your-own-snacks reception. Mermaid Players Secretary Clara Giorgis ’21 (international studies, Russian) makes a point of taking part in these online happenings, along with the theatre & dance department’s weekly greenroom lunch, now held virtually, via videoconference. She says that while theatre students are disappointed that they won’t be presenting their spring production, events like these fill in the gap.

Fostering wellness

athletics meeting


Coaches are holding regular online team sessions to maintain team fitness and spirit, and the athletics department, along with individual teams and coaches, shares shout-outs through social media to celebrate the achievements and accolades of student-athletes. Tara Dedrickson ’21 (computer science, mathematics and quantitative economics) is captain of the women’s soccer team, which holds group workouts through video calls. “This is helping us to stay motivated and to continue building our relationships with each other,” she says. “It has been a very positive experience.”

The Office of Campus Recreation (OCR) Programs & Initiatives also helps students remain active and healthy. In addition to hosting virtual events like the April 8 All-Time Sports Movie Bracket Challenge (students missing the thrill of March Madness picked their favorite films, rather than favorite teams) and the trick-shot video challenge, OCR is hosting online workouts as well as yoga and meditation sessions. OCR also posts healthy grocery lists and recipes as well as how-to camping-equipment videos (see the Dickinson Rec Instagram and Campus Recreation YouTube page for details).

Ben Cross ’20 (computer science, mathematics) uses Zoom for meetings and SharePoint to house documents and calendars as he plans rock-wall events for the coming academic year. He’s also leveraging the Dickinson Rec Instagram account to post fitness plans and healthy recipes. Campus Rec also has held an esports tournament.

Adena Cohen '22 is organizing a self-help-book group; the first book is Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Adena Cohen '22 is organizing a self-help-book group; the first book is Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Also through the OCR: student-intern Elisabeth Warren ’22 (environmental science, theatre) is creating an outdoor-ed podcast featuring Leave No Trace educator Chris Castillo, and Adena Cohen ’22 (undeclared) is organizing a self-help book club for students. “The goal is to meet once a week and discuss some of the new skills we learned as well as how we plan to use them in the future,” Cohen says.

Supporting club officers

Each of these student leaders relies on the Division of Student Life for support as they work out new ways to connect. The Office of Student Leadership & Campus Engagement (SLCE) has made a list of additional free activities and events for students to explore and sends out weekly newsletters highlighting clubs that have remained active since the transition, the tools they are using to connect, their upcoming events and tips for other clubs to get up and running online.

Club officers can schedule online events through SLCE's EngageD page. And at a time of year when new club officers are being onboarded, SLCE Assistant Director Jessee Vasold is also available for consultation and brainstorming with club officers during virtual office hours via Microsoft Teams.

Connected and resourceful

Wong says that gaming together through the Esports Club helps relieve stress, and he’s grateful that he’s still able to meet up with his friends during this challenging time. Other club officers agree.

“Isolation can be extremely toxic, but any form of human connection can help fight this,” says Cross. “As a small liberal-arts school with so many student clubs, we can leverage existing organizations and networks to help students feel like they have some more control over their lives in time when that’s a rare feeling.”

Black and Chandler say they’re pleased to see fellow students meet current challenges head-on.

 “Many people have really stepped up to this challenge and made the most of it,” says Black. “Dickinson continues to show that even when we may not be together, we will always be a strong community.”

“It can be challenging sometimes, but we still make it through,” says Chandler. “Us Dickinsonians have to stick together the only ways we can right now.”



Published April 27, 2020