Spring on the York College campus

Staying Engaged with Students

"It was really fascinating to see how we could serve not just our students, but their families and our faculty."

It took a lot of savvy staff and forward thinking, but when Sara Goodwin, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, looks back on the Spring Semester, she’s proud of what everyone accomplished. “The Spartan community is so important at York College,” Goodwin says. “When COVID-19 meant we weren’t going to be together in person, we knew we had to find ways to be together digitally.” 

Once students went home and started classes online, many thought it would be a quick two-week adjustment and everyone would be together on campus again. But rather than wait and see, Goodwin and her team got to work. First, those still on campus went around and collected video clips of faculty saying, “We’ll get through this” and other heartwarming messages. Those were shared on social media and used to connect with students from home. 

Her team gathered photos around campus and used them for Instagram scavenger hunts. They also collected footage of Screamer, the York College mascot, and found that his quirky personality made for a fun “takeover” on the College’s Instagram account. What really got Goodwin’s wheels turning was how to take the once weekly oncampus activities and use them in a digital format to get students tuning in. 

Each week, Goodwin and her staff sent out an email with a calendar of events that students could check out. These included a YCP Chopped event, where students were given three ingredients and had a week to make a dish and share it on their own feeds. Bingo, which was so popular it usually filled the dining hall on campus, was one of the first things to take a virtual turn. After finding a free online program and planning how to launch it, Goodwin was excited to see about 50 to 60 students logged in for one of the bingo events, which was hosted by the College’s own Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith and her husband, JL. 

Students also were able to tune in to special events, like eSports programs featuring Smash Brothers and Minecraft tournaments. A hypnotist that the College has hosted in the past also took part in a virtual event where students not only found entertainment, but some tips for stress management, Goodwin says. “Our biggest goal was to let students know we hadn’t forgotten about them.” 

Even though the events were geared toward York College students, Goodwin says, she found entire families tuned in for trivia, siblings participated in YCP Chopped, and even faculty joined for bingo. “It was really fascinating to see how we could serve not just our students, but their families and our faculty,” Goodwin says. “It made what we offer even more important.” 

Cody Seachrist, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, also found ways to take intramural and club sports to the Internet. His team used social media to keep spirits high, mostly by posting a daily motivational item, such as Monday Meditation, Tuesday Student Takeover, and Thursday Throwbacks with videos from intramural games. 

While the social media posts grew engagement, they also helped Seachrist launch a “minutes challenge,” where people were encouraged to log their active minutes each week and compete to see who could rack up the most. Seachrist says 119 people registered for the challenge and 100 people actively participated each week. “Being apart for so long was certainly not part of the plan for the semester,” he says. “But, we learned how to stay connected. We found ways to still be engaged.”