Campus News

Student Organizations Rise to the Challenge of Virtual Connection

Students seated at table with laptops
Students work together at their laptops earlier this academic year. Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 16, 2020) — For millions of college students across the country, their spring semesters came to an unprecedented halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That unfortunately equates to students no longer being able to meet up with one another in person for student organizations and activities, many of which were planned for the last half of the semester.

Several student organizations will no longer be able to hold their philanthropy events and activities, at least not in the way they imagined. But many UK students have accepted the challenge, tapping into their creativity to transform the way they connect with their fellow students and maintain a sense of normalcy.

One student organization, the FCC-licensed, noncommercial educational radio station WRFL 88.1, has been working around the clock (quite literally) to provide accurate and up-to-date information regarding COVID-19. The station airs content 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and students have drafted contingency plans to ensure content continues. Station leaders continue to work with artist partners in order to deliver new independent music to listeners, while developing new ways for local musicians to be heard on air and around the world.

“Now the message is: what can we do for you?” said station promotions director Aileen Tierney. “We want to help our listeners and our community, now more than ever.”

Multiple organizations are holding elections live via Zoom, with some seizing this opportunity to play games, organize study sessions and host trivia nights utilizing the platform’s video chat feature. Others have had to adjust their programming, with many scheduled speakers and guests having to cancel visits and presentations.

“There's a definite lack of camaraderie when everyone is separated and trying to just survive themselves, but video chats and the like can definitely help with this at times,” said Brenton Craggs, president of the Health Law Society, special events chair of the Federalist Society and president of Pro-life Wildcats.  

Craggs, a dual J. David Rosenberg College of Law and College of Public Health student, also sees this as an opportunity for current student leaders to extend their influence and continue to mentor the next wave of Wildcats taking the reins.

“I do hope those who take over next will not hesitate to reach out to the leaders who are graduating as resources for planning, mentoring and organizing in the upcoming year,” shared Craggs. “And I hope my fellow leaders will take time out of their professional post-graduation schedules to give back and assist these up-and-coming leaders as they pick up the burden we have left for them.”

Staff members and advisors in the Office of Student Organizations and Activities (SOA) have been working hard to support these groups, committing countless hours by providing resources and tools to help manage this transition to virtual organization management.

These resources include the following:

Benjamin Starr, coordinator for student organizations in the Office of Student Organizations and Activities, explains the importance of student organizations, especially during this time.

“Student organizations play a vital role in fostering our campus community. The Office of Student Organizations and Activities recognizes and appreciates the work each and every student organization does to engage and build relationships with their members,” Starr said. “In this time of transition, the role of student organizations is just as important as ever. We have already seen from many of our organizations that the bonds found within these groups can continue to be fostered virtually.”

In addition to recognizing the significant contributions that student organizations have made this academic year, SOA is virtually hosting the “Lead Blue: Student Organizations Celebration” starting 7 p.m. Monday, April 27. This virtual event will recognize student organization achievements and accomplishments of student leaders. 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.