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Student orgs embrace technology

Fri Feb 5, 2021 at 02:10 PM

Research shows that student involvement in on-campus organizations helps students create lasting relationships, maintain higher GPAs, develop leadership skills and it increases retention rates. In the face of a pandemic, many of Oakland University’s student organizations had to pivot right along with the faculty and staff members to create engaging, fulfilling and worthwhile students experiences with COVID-19 protocols and safety in mind. 

“In the Office of Student Involvement, we want students to know that we are here, we are still working for them and we are the place for students to get involved,” said Jennifer Yetter, programming assistant for students organizations. “Especially with first year students, from orientation to the start of the fall semester, we wanted to assure them that we were here for them.”

Yetter said OSI held a virtual GrizzFest in the fall. This event is usually a large-scale, in-person event that showcases the student organization available at OU. While the on-campus event is traditionally held in front of the library and is easy for students to see and attend, it took more promotion to make sure students knew about the virtual GrizzFest. Yetter said OSI made sure there were plenty of posters and it was promoted to in-coming students during tours and orientation. 

Yetter said with the virtual GrizzFest students could “drop in” to online meeting rooms to meet with student organization leaders and learn more about the opportunities for involvement. The fall event worked well and the OSI held another virtual GrizzFest during the start of the winter semester as well. 

Developing a plan

When campus closed in March, Yetter said OSI had to find unique ways to continue to keep students involved. Social media played a large part in that. Yetter said she spearheaded the OSI Instagram account and made sure students knew OSI was still functioning and making plans. 

Those plans included ways to get incoming students involved and help organizations find opportunities to meet and connect with their members. 

“I will give a lot of credit to the students. They pivoted really quickly and really well. Thankfully, we had that hybrid time for a little while in the fall, which gave us time to connect with students on campus,” said Yetter. As for the students organizations, she said they made going virtual look easy. “I’m really proud of our student orgs.”

Yetter said not only have the students pivoted to a different way of running their organizations, they have also been helping student organizations that need extra assistance. 

This fall, Yetter said several student organizations were concerned that they couldn’t function without in-person meetings. However, with the support of other students and OSI, Yetter said many were able to figure it out and still recruit members in the fall. 

The organizations had to make a shift in the fall to adapt to COVID-19 guidelines. This meant hybrid meetings, or outdoor and socially-distanced meetings. Many organizations also utilized GrizzOrgs, an online platform that allows students to research organizations but also provides a place for online meetings.   

Yetter said there are still plenty of campus events going on--from speakers to sorority and fraternity meetings and workshops to speakers, there are events to accommodate the interests of nearly everyone at OU. 

While student organizations are predominantly still online, Yetter said it’s a great time to explore student orgs. She said getting involved, even online, is a good way to meet people and make sure the student org is a good fit. 

“Maybe they’ll love it. Maybe they’ll be more comfortable trying it because they know they can do it virtually at first,” said Yetter. 

For more information on the student organizations at Oakland University, visit the OSI website or head over to the GrizzOrgs page and see the entire list of student organizations as well as links to upcoming meetings and events.