Honors College community still connected … online
By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
When the pandemic forced Grand Canyon University to transition ground classes to distance learning, the Honors College wanted to do more than help students complete their coursework. It also has made sure they still feel connected to the Honors community.
Since March, the Honors College has used online platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Zoom to establish fun, creative ways to engage with students. In addition to holding virtual versions of traditional end-of-the-semester events on the Honors College YouTube page, faculty and students have uploaded posts that teach new skills.
“Since our students are spread across the globe, and each facing their own unique circumstances in relation to COVID-19, we wanted to provide them with fun and creative opportunities to stay connected to a positive community regardless of where they were located,” Program Manager Cathleen Daly said. “Our social media has always had a strong presence with our students, so it was a natural step to utilize that social media to stay connected with them.
“It has been really fun to take our digital platforms to a whole new level and come up with creative ways to engage with our students virtually.”
Students could take a video lesson on how to speak Russian with Program Manager Anna Cofrancesco, learn how to cook with Daly, brush up on their music knowledge with Program Manager Dennis Williams, learn some ballet basics with student worker Kendall Smith and show off their Disney princess knowledge with Honors College Associate Dean Breanna Naegeli and her daughter.
It was an experience that Naegeli says put the college’s creativity to the test.
“The transition that COVID-19 created really forced our entire team and our student body to think creatively about how we host events, how we do social gatherings and how we interact with our peers,” she said. “Now that we’ve been able to kind of test some of these options, I think we’re just continuing to get better and better at engaging students remotely.
“We know that when the fall semester occurs, we might have a good number of students on campus, but there might also be a good number that are taking classes online from home or they might feel comfortable going to their classes but maybe not comfortable being at large gatherings for social events. So this is allowing us to really play around with how to make sure the community continues to build and thrive, given the circumstances.”
Another popular activity is Tuesday Night Trivia, which began in May. Topics have included Marvel Comics and the “Friends” TV show, and the next trivia night — scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 16 — will center on Pixar animated movies.
“We’ve had handfuls of students attend different trivia nights, depending on which theme they’re attracted to. Some students even had their parents or siblings join in on the fun with us,” Daly said. “We were even thinking that possibly, if it goes well, continuing it on throughout the school year.”
When Smith was asked to create the ballet video for beginners, it was an opportunity to share her love of dance with her fellow students.
“It made me realize how much I love teaching ballet,” Smith said. “I did it all in one take, and it ended up going really well.”
The incoming junior is double majoring in dance performance and digital film, so creating a dance video was a perfect fit. She also has engaged in a number of virtual Honors College activities and says it has helped her still feel connected to her peers.
“It’s definitely been great because I do miss a lot of people from the Honors College, and … it’s really great to read the comments of all these Honors students coming together and supporting one another,” she said.
But while the virtual gatherings have been fun, she has her eye on something even better — being together again in person.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]