This past March, when Boise State students got the fateful email regarding the decision to move classes to remote learning, many campus events were cancelled. The university facilities that were originally planned to host these events were deemed unsafe and closed, and there simply was not enough time to pivot and plan virtual versions.
For other upcoming fall events that were being planned at least five months in advance by program assistants at the Student Involvement and Leadership Center (SILC), there was reason to hope that come August, in person events would be possible.
Now that August is here, it is clear that fully in-person events are possible with certain stipulations, considering everyone has had more time to plan and make accommodations.
That’s why Melinda Jean Stafford, the assistant director at the SILC, has high hopes for the events that kick off fall semester every year.
“We want to hold in person programs,” Stafford said. “That’s what we’re good at, it’s our specialty. So we’re fighting for students to come back safely. That’s really our bread and butter.”
The team of program assistants at the SILC is responsible for hosting some of the university’s biggest events that engage new students like Splatter Party, Movie on the Blue and Bronco Night. However, since the events that had been planned in the spring were unsafe for this semester, the team faced the daunting task of creating new events in a fraction of the normal time it takes to plan an event that would comply with quickly changing guidelines.
Sarah Gores is a junior business administration major and a program assistant who worked on the team last year and has returned this year and felt the shift in planning personally.
“The last few months have required a lot of flexibility from our team because we are unfortunately unable to put on many of the events we usually do,” Gores wrote in an email. “So we have been sent back to the drawing board and have been working hard to plan fun events that give students the opportunity to get connected within the Boise State community, while being safe.”
For Campus Program Coordinator Mikayla Mitzel, student health and engagement on campus go hand-in-hand.
“We want our students to know that their safety is our number one priority and their engagement with the university is also a top priority,” Mitzel said. “We’re following all the guidelines but still giving people the opportunity to meet each other.”
Instead of the events that have historically welcomed students to campus, the SILC has planned events that will extend physical distance and limit group size. These include a campus-wide scavenger hunt on Aug. 22 and the Service Saturday river clean up on Aug. 29, which are available to groups or individuals.
Another event is the Involvement Fair, which is held every semester to introduce students to fraternities, sororities, organizations and clubs around campus. This year, the event will be held on Zoom, where the chat room function will be used to host students who are interested in asking questions or learning about a particular group.
Though this is not the fall she had expected, Stafford said that it still presents new opportunities that students have risen to so far.
“While there are some traditional [events] that people appreciate continuing, this is going to force the team to get out of the comfort zone and get creative and ask ‘what else can we do?’” Stafford said.
Gores and the rest of the team at the SILC know how tiring zoom meetings can be. Beyond that, though, they also know how isolation can make it harder for students to connect and build community.
“We want every event we put on to not only put a smile on a student’s face, but to also make them feel like they belong here,” Gores wrote.
Gores recommended using @getinvolvedbsu on Instagram or their website at boisestate.edu/getinvolved to learn more about upcoming events. Students can sign up at engage.boisestate.edu. Gores and Mitzel both hope that the SILC’s message of hope to students is heard loud and clear.
“Our goal regardless of the pandemic is to get students involved on campus, and we want students to know that,” Mitzel said.