Written by: Martha Feleke, Maleah Metz, Hiroki Nishibori, and Wyatt Olson
Student leaders responded to needs for clubs and activities despite having to deliver them online during the quarantine. This forced them to restructure their pre-planned events so that they could continue to support students and maintain social connections.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone on a global scale. People are working from home, self-quarantining, and distancing themselves from friends and family. On March 18, President Ana Mari Cauce announced that spring quarter classes would be held remotely. This switch to remote activity also meant that student clubs on campus had to find a way to continue engaging the community through an online environment.
The quarantine has left most students without the ability to interact with members of the UW Bothell community that they were used to seeing daily on campus. The social isolation that comes with a quarantine has a significant impact on mental health and can cause high levels of anxiety and distress. This is why these clubs are actively working to reach students and offer meetings and activities during this unprecedented time.
Students Engagement & Activities (SEA) is organizing virtual events to create a community that helps each other and stays connected. SEA said that they have been struggling with organizing online events simply because it is their first time doing fully virtual events. They have also found that the participation rate has decreased. There used to be upwards of 600 participants before the pandemic but now it is as low as 13. On May 19 and 20, they held Spring Fest. It was all online and students used photo booths, played games, did yoga, listened to music, and chatted with one another. SEA is still planning to do more virtual activities and events in order to keep the UW Bothell community connected.
The UWB Gaming Club has also found ways to maintain social connections during the quarantine. Bill Pham founded the club after coming to UW Bothell and realizing how the campus seemed inactive and disconnected. Due to UW Bothell primarily being a commuter campus, he noticed that there weren’t a lot of things to do on campus. Pham wanted to create a club not only to have something to do after class but also to create a gaming community. The club is now mainly run through the online communication platform, Discord. Prior to the quarantine, the gaming club held most meetings in person where they all could communicate, play together, and host their events and tournaments. But due to the COVID-19 safety precautions, they have moved their meetings online via Discord. However, there is a silver lining because after moving their meetings online, they saw an increase in engagement compared to when they would meet in person.
Women in Business at UW Bothell took advantage of this virtual environment to bring in different speakers for their workshops. The club is holding “Empower Hours” on a weekly basis and features a female leader who speaks about her experiences in the workforce. On May 14, the workshop featured Teena Thach who does Social Media and Marketing for Starbucks. Thach spoke about the road that brought her to her current position and the challenges she faced along the way. Participants had the chance to ask questions about both her career and Starbucks in general. In addition to the social networking that occurs through club involvement, it can also help students stand out to recruiters and employers. A study found that job recruiters often look at involvement in extracurricular activities as being the second most important thing on a resume after work experience. Active involvement in campus clubs can substitute for professional work experience when students are applying for jobs after graduation.
Despite the benefits of joining clubs, there are still students who are hesitant about getting involved. Nigel Anders, a junior at UW Bothell spoke about why he hasn’t chosen to join a club yet. One of those reasons is just being too busy with work and school. But another reason is the anxiety surrounding walking into a new social situation.
“Sometimes I have a little bit of personal fear that I’m stepping into a space that has been established for a while.” Anders said. “As a transfer student, I imagine a lot of the people at the clubs have known each other for a while and sometimes that’s a little daunting to me.”
Anders also said that with the exception of a few posters here and there on campus, he hasn’t seen much in terms of club promotion. Now that he isn’t on campus, he barely sees club advertisements at all. Clubs are primarily marketing on social media which means they’re only getting their messages out to current followers.
The cancellation of some of these events has also altered the flow of money throughout the university. When the 2019-2020 academic year began, the Club Council released their funding model, which stated there was $106,300 allocated for the year. Spring quarter specifically had $20,000 set aside. As a result of adapting to social distancing measures, the rolling of events into online spaces has allowed clubs to save money.
Cindy Yang, the vice president of Women in Business, said that the club had already been operating with very little funding. She specifically highlighted the fact that they are saving even more money now since they don’t have to pay out of pocket costs for food and other refreshments for in-person events.
Club leaders and members together are finding the positives throughout the shifting landscape of distance learning. More club information can be found at https://www.uwb.edu/sea/clubs. Clubs at UWB are posting their upcoming events on their social media feeds which can be found at https://www.uwb.edu/sea/clubs/browse.