Student organizations navigate COVID limitations, adapt to virtual engagements


Photo Courtesy of Division in Student Affairs CSUSM

With the campus going online, the student organizations have had to adjust the way they conduct their meetings. However, the strong sense of teamwork they have helps keep them going.

Kristie Castillo, Staff Writer

Student organizations and clubs previously hosted all of their meetings, events and workshops in-person, but now they’re looking at a year of staying virtual. 

At one of the first virtual engagements this year, the Sept. 3 “Meet the Greeks” event held on Microsoft Teams, Greek Life leaders met with prospective student members and introduced their organization, philanthropy and recruitment weeks. 

Crystal Zamora, Vice President of Recruitment for the Multicultural Greek Council and Alpha Pi Sigma sister, explained that in the past, Greek Life recruited members through in-person tabling where they were able to showcase their histories and perform dances and plays. 

Through Microsoft Teams, however, the organizations presented older performances, community service events or other representations of their organizations. And with the event online, “Meet the Greeks” noticed lower participation numbers. 

However, Zamora found that this version of recruitment facilitated intimate, one-to-one interaction between the organizations and prospective members. 

“They would actually be able to give more time to each person…they can actually get to know who they’re trying to give a bid to in a more in-person way, even if they’re keeping the social distance through Zoom or whichever way they choose to do it virtually,” Zamora said. The increased engagement, in her opinion, has been the benefit of the shift to the virtual setting.

Other student leaders will get a taste of these upcoming virtual conferences with the Student Leadership & Involvement Center’s Student Organization Fair via Zoom. During this event, student leaders will meet with their prospective student members and have the opportunity to recruit them through the virtual platform. 

Many organizations have already implemented measures to ensure their student members will remain in the loop on their semester’s events. 

For the Environmental Stewards Association, an organization that has primarily relied on in-person and outdoor opportunities, Co-Presidents Melissa Reyes and Daniela Loera are doing their best to engage and support their students despite these new guidelines. 

The organization is working to shift their events to the online setting, such as educational Zoom lectures, collaborations with other orgs through social media and encouraging students to clean up the environment around them (if and when it is safe to do so). 

The Co-Presidents emphasized the concept of engagement on the student’s own time, where students can adhere to safety guidelines while learning new things and keeping their environment clean. 

“It’s engagement but on their own time instead of being together. We’re going to have meetings, you know, where we’re all together on the screen but also having people do things when they can as well,” Loera said. 

To Reyes, the virtual setting does have its benefits. It provides an opportunity for students to feel more encouraged to engage with the Environmental Stewards Association. The virtual platform allows students to choose between speaking or typing their questions or concerns during these events which, to Reyes, means students can feel more comfortable interacting with them. 

“From what I’ve noticed, even in classes, a lot of people are more encouraged to participate when there’s chat because they don’t have to say anything, they can just type it out. If they’re a bit shy, they can just type it in the chat,” Reyes said.

Furthermore, in previous years, student organizations have collected membership dues as a means to afford event transportation, T-shirts and graduation regalia. But with everything online, students who join this semester may have one less investment to worry about. 

According to Zamora, the Multicultural Greek Council will be reducing their membership dues by half and any other organizations have also cancelled or reduced their membership dues for the fall semester due to the lack of in-person activities. 

Despite the circumstances, CSUSM’s student leaders are proving to be resilient in the face of these challenges, working diligently to support their community through the virtual setting. There is a consensus among Zamora, Reyes and Loera that these changes afford students the opportunity to learn, engage and benefit from student organizations on their own time, as well as remain socially connected while physically distanced. 

Whether the university and student org modifications will deliver the same level of engagement for their members as their in-person meetings or not, students can rest assured that their student leaders are working hard to adjust and excel within the new normal.