Boise State adapts to meet student needs and enhance student experience during COVID-19

Boise State University is a school that prides itself on student connection and a social atmosphere that inspires high school graduates to leave home in order to experience college life in Boise. Megan Arseneau, a senior global studies major, remembers what student life was like as an eager freshman moving from California. 

“I didn’t know anyone when I moved to Boise. I remember thinking that I was going to be the only Californian attending BSU,” Arseneau said.

Arseneau called Chaffee Hall home her freshman year and believes on campus living is essential for first year students. 

“I knew I wanted the dorm experience. I wanted to be social and meet new people, that’s how freshmen get through the first year. Those connections are so important to establish right off the bat,” Arseneau said.

Boise State University stopped holding in-person classes on March 16 and housing asked students living on-campus to find alternate living quarters by March 26. By the middle of the month, over 1,100 higher education institutions moved to online instruction.

Arseneau explains that the reason she chose Boise State was because of the student involvement and social aspect. Parties, football games and sorority recruitment were all things that stick out in her memory.

“You don’t want to say you chose a college because of parties and football games but BSU is a football school and it’s such an important part of the culture,” Arseneau said.

Most of the student body looks forward to football season and fall gatherings. This semester, those options look different, with events being hosted online and football games being pushed back to October.

A social life in college is very important to the development of young adults, according to Arseneau and many choose to live on campus in order to be exposed to as many personalities as possible.

Amanda Khampha-Rockrohr is an assistant director of Housing and Residential Life at Boise State. Rockrohr explained that COVID-19 has forced her department to be creative when it comes to community building between students and staff. 

“Our team is still doing in-person programs that follow COVID-19 safety guidelines to keep students safe, and offering many virtual touch points,” Khampha-Rockrohr wrote in an email. “For example, this year we have implemented Community Circles, which offers opportunities for the individual communities to connect and support their community expectations led by their Resident Assistants.”

All universities have had to prioritize safety over fun while trying to navigate a semester during COVID-19. Though this is the only option when it comes to dealing with a pandemic, student mental health could be put at risk under safety restrictions.  

According to a survey done by Inside Higher Ed, 90% of university presidents are very or somewhat concerned about student mental health in the wake of COVID-19. This not only reflects the awareness that college and university presidents have of their students, but also that those presidents realize how difficult these situations are and how much of an impact they have had on students. 

Boise State President, Dr. Marlene Tromp, told George Prentice of Boise State Public Radio that concerns of mental health and how to serve students in this way are two driving factors for how the university navigates the difficult semester.

“We’ve got to care for the mental health and well-being of the people we serve,” Tromp said.  

When asked about how the housing department is prepared to handle mental health concerns of students who moved to campus this semester and, like Arseneau, may not yet have a support system in Boise, Khampa-Rockrohr emphasized Boise State’s support programs. 

“We work closely with a variety of offices such as Dean of Students and Bronco Fit to deliver programs and information around mental health,” Khampa-Rockrohr said. “Also, we have hired extra support to support students around mental health, such as our graduate assistant who reach out to residential students around CARE concerns, and the Dean of Students will be hiring a new Case Manager that will work closely with our residential students around COVID related concerns.”

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