Emma Kramer is the president of operations for Delta Phi Epsilon and said participation was low during COVID-19. “I think we are all itching to participate and be back with our members once again,” she said.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost every aspect of student life has changed. Transitioning to virtual platforms for everyday activities like classes and organization meetings was a common strategy against combating COVID-19 via social distancing and isolating.
Webster University was not apart from the norm in handling the pandemic; desks 6 feet apart, Zoom classes and virtual events dominated the 2020-2021 school year. Webster opted for online alternatives to conferences, the Speaker Series, the Involvement Fair and graduation.
Last year, meetings for campus sorority Delta Phi Epsilon (DPhiE) were fully virtual. Vice president of operations Emma Kramer said involvement was sparse during the peak of COVID-19.
“The culture of college at that time really took its toll on our sisters as it did many Webster students,” Kramer said. “I think we are all itching to participate and be back with our members once again.”
DPhiE has now returned to its pre-pandemic routine of meeting on-campus.
“Weekly meetings and communication in person has helped us get back into the groove of not only mentally showing up, but physically being with one another again,” Kramer said.
Director of Student Engagement Jennifer Stewart said for Campus Activities, pivoting back to hosting in-person events has been equally as challenging as adapting to virtual ones.
“We thought, ‘We’ll go back to how we were doing it before. We know how to do that.’ But what we’re seeing now is that we forgot a lot of stuff,” Stewart said. “Just remembering the [logistics] of what you need to put on an in-person event and getting people to come to those events. I think a lot of people have started to prioritize differently and really focus on what’s most important to them.”
Stewart said this means less students taking time to spontaneously stop by an on-campus event – time is more of a commodity now. Prioritizing mental health over social interaction during free time has been a recurring theme for many the past year.
Because of this, Campus Activities has emphasized drop-in or walk-by events where students don’t need to commit to a certain amount of time they participate. The petting zoo and Welcome Weekend events boasted 150 to 200 attendants, according to Stewart.
While large-scale social events are back on Campus Activities’ to-do list, Stewart said students are leaning toward smaller organizations to warm back up. This has resulted in a surge of involvement in special interest clubs.
“It seems that those smaller, specific, niche areas are where a lot of the student engagement and student involvement is really thriving,” Stewart said. “I think it will take … getting connected in those small ways to re-build up to people being comfortable [participating] in those bigger events we were used to having before the pandemic.”
Campus Activities’ goal post-pandemic is to reintroduce some of those bigger events. These include the Speaker Series, casino night, stress-relief week and excursions to the Fox Theatre or City Museum.
Delta Phi Epsilon is making a comeback with on-campus events as well. So far this semester, they have hosted a bingo night and cornhole tournament.
“We are beyond excited to be back and recruiting,” Kramer said. “We had a huge class … come to initiation this year; we had 11 new members join. Seeing this new class become initiated was emotional for myself after not seeing that experience happen in person for over a year.”