Community directors talk fall student experience, on-campus resources in fifth discussion with NU community


Daily file photo by Catherine Buchaniec

A social distancing sign posted by the Lakefill. The University hosted a webinar Thursday on expectations for the student experience this fall.

Isabelle Sarraf, Copy Chief

Northwestern community directors discussed planning for the student experience this fall in a Thursday webinar, the fifth in a series hosted by administrators related to returning to campus.

Participants discussed making student services accessible. All undergraduate students are required to undergo a modified self-quarantine upon arrival to campus dubbed “Wildcat Wellness,” but some on-campus services will open up to students in some format at the start of the quarter.

Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, executive director for campus inclusion and community, said many services will tentatively be offered in a hybrid fashion this fall. Those services will largely be provided virtually through platforms like Zoom, she said. If students require physical resources, many of those will be provided through in-person appointments.

For example, the University’s libraries will keep physical study spaces open and offer printing capabilities, but students can only access these services by appointment rather than walk-ins. Brown-Henderson said NU is working to make students living on and away from campus this quarter feel “connected even though they’re socially distant.” That means creating engaging virtual spaces, she said.

“When we think about Wildcat Wellness… I invite us to think about how we can be all this together,” Brown-Henderson said. “What does that look like? How can we take responsibility for ourselves and for one another to keep our community as healthy as possible?”

Lauren-Ashley Buchanan, associate director of graduate student life, said The Graduate School will host a virtual orientation akin to the undergraduate Wildcat Welcome experience. The school plans to host a virtual resource fair of campus partners and student organizations, including filterable panels with summaries of the organizations they’re interested in and some personable introduction videos.

Similarly, the Office of Campus Life plans to provide undergraduate students with opportunities to stay connected while social distancing, Tracey Gibson-Jackson, director for student organizations and activities, said. She said her office is hosting a virtual event in the middle of Wildcat Welcome to allow freshmen and transfer students to navigate how to connect with student organizations and “find your niche.”

There are also plans in the works, Gibson-Jackson said, to host an entirely virtual Fall Organization Fair in the week following the Wildcat Wellness period.

“Campus Life is utilizing all organizations to host as many of their events virtually and make them accessible for students who choose to not come back to participate remotely,” Gibson-Jackson said.

With most extracurricular activities and student organizations planning to meet virtually in the fall, Travis Martin, director for Fraternity and Sorority Life, said his office is working with Greek organizations on campus to conduct virtual formal recruitment and new member education processes.

“All of (the Greek councils) do recruitment very differently, but we will work with those diverse constituents to think about what programming and recruitment will look like. We’ll be advising all student organizations to host their events virtually,” Martin said. “We want to make sure we’re inclusive, as we know not all of our students will be returning.”

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