Keeping Social from a Distance

Virtual gaming, pet photo contests, and Zoom dance parties connect Beloit students around the globe.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected daily life in countless ways for everyone. But Beloiters have responded to this challenge with creativity, persistence, and school spirit.

With Beloit’s tight-knit community physically separated, faculty and staff have been working on ways to keep our students connected to Beloit and each other. Some of the most creative and engaging activities have come from the staff of the Powerhouse, Beloit’s award-winning new student union and rec center located in a repurposed hundred-year-old former coal burning power plant.

When students are on campus, the Powerhouse is a center for physical and social activity. In adapting to a time of social distancing and remote learning, the Powerhouse team stepped up its regular menu of fitness programs and social activities by adding e-sports leagues, virtual bingo, and trivia nights.

The team has invited students to play group games like Mario Kart and Harry Potter-themed virtual trivia, and take part in a pet photo contest (judged in brackets, March Madness-style). These events are reminding everyone that Beloit’s social life and spirit of community is intact, even when everyone is physically apart.

“Our job with clubs and organizations is to bring people together and help them have fun,” says Mic Brunner, who directs Beloit’s Student Engagement and Leadership program and is part of the Powerhouse team. “We’re looking for shared social experiences while practicing social distancing.”

Steve Robinson, the director of Beloit’s Powerhouse, says that even virtual events allow people to check in with each other. He is overjoyed by the ongoing student activities and events he sees right now—and he says they go beyond what his own team is spearheading. He cited a Zoom dance party, hosted by Jenn Esperanza, a professor of anthropology, along with the college’s Health and Wellness Center, as a great example of an effort to rally the community.

This kind of programming is always important, Steve says, but especially right now. “This disruption in our lives was abrupt and connecting with each other brings a little normalcy back. It brings back our connection to Beloit.”

April 06, 2020

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