Residence halls create connections and community through Zoom

Ava Sanborn | Photographer

By Mallory Harris | Reporter

While COVID-19 has disrupted many events this semester, residence hall employees have persevered in getting students connected. From central staff in Campus Living and Learning to the community leaders, many people are working to ensure students can feel at home at Baylor.

As most events this semester have changed to an online format, Rob Engblom, associate director for resident learning, explained how the shift hasn’t limited the creativity in developing events.

CL&L has five goals when creating an event so the students can get the most out of the experience: concept of life together, self-advocacy, faith development, culture humility and academic success.

Community Leaders develop events with a broad topic along with tailored activities for their specific hall. Including these events, CLs must also get to know their residents individually, and it’s between both of these opportunities that students can make connections.

“As far as our CLs getting to know their residents now, some of that might be happening in the virtual format as opposed to face-to-face like it normally does, but that’s still a major point of emphasis,” Engblom said. “Our CLs are often pretty adaptable to execute programs.”

Miami, Fla., senior Lilli Falcon, Teal CL mentor, explained how creating events where residents will attend and feel comfortable has changed.

In the planning aspects, Falcon said how little things, such as walking by a resident and reminding them about events aren’t really happening this semester.

Falcon also explained how interactive activities and breakout rooms have helped break down large chats into more bite-sized discussions. Despite the long road of getting the attention of students, Falcon said how attendance and connections still run high.

“I’ve noticed, at least on my floor, my residents have seemed really willing to log onto our Zoom calls, even if they can only pop in for a little while,” Falcon said. “We, as in the CLs, are trying to really promote each other’s events, so the residents have opportunities.”

Since Teal Residential College requires a two-year commitment, some students have the opportunity to compare the new format of developing new connections to last year. Dallas sophomore Julia MacMiller is in her second year living at Teal and has welcomed the challenges COVID-19 has brought.

The biggest change she said she experienced was how upperclassmen don’t have the same accessibility to get to know and mentor the freshmen like in previous years. Besides all the Zoom calls, MacMiller admires the effort put into the events by the CLs and is finding new ways of meeting people.

“I think meeting people has been really different,” MacMiller said. “I know like last year you met a lot of people in your classes, even just around campus and I think this year you meet less people in your classes and so it’s more important to meet people in your dorm.”

While creating events that abide by safety regulations and draw in students is difficult, CL&L has found multiple ways to get students connected. Engblom said a virtual painting party happened at Teal and got many residents to participate.

Flacon also explained how virtual movie nights have attracted students. From these events, students have the opportunity to grow in their residence hall community and get connected to Baylor.

“It’s a different experience than it typically is, but I think the students have been pretty resilient and understanding of what’s happening,” Engblom said.