Student-centered events are getting a reboot online

March 25, 2020

The Division of Student Affairs is adapting quickly to keep UM-Dearborn’s student community feeling connected.

A Facebook Live event featuring UM-Dearborn's Saulo Ortiz in his home kitchen displays on a laptop.
A Facebook Live event featuring UM-Dearborn's Saulo Ortiz in his home kitchen displays on a laptop.
Head of first-gen programming Saulo Ortiz helped jumpstart the online events lineup with his first Facebook Live event, "Snack and Socialize with Saulo."

Even as classes moved online last week and most UM-Dearborn staff started working from home, one vital part of campus life was left mostly on the sidelines in the wake of new social distancing measures. In the course of just a few days, in-person university events — of any size — disappeared from the calendar, as leaders asked organizers to postpone or find virtual ways to hold gatherings.

Dean of Students Amy Finley says that was a particularly big blow to students and student organizations. 

“I just remember feeling sad —  especially for my seniors, whose year, for most intents and purposes, had just kind of ended,” Finley says. “They weren’t going to get to celebrate with their peers, or do their end-of-year student organization events, or socialize with their friends as they closed out their student careers. So our team just started thinking about how, even in this different environment, we could bring people together.”

In just a week, Finley and her team were able to get a lot of events back on the calendar in virtual form. For example, head of first-gen programming Saulo Ortiz pitched in by hosting his first-ever Facebook Live event — “Snack and Socialize with Saulo” — where Ortiz and about 30 participants shared some healthy make-at-home snack ideas. (His video already has almost 700 views.) Thursday at 7 p.m., they’re hosting an online discussion of the new Netflix film “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker.” And Counseling and Psychological Services recently launched a slew of virtual resources, from self-care tip sheets to online counseling sessions.

Finley says workshops that feature a discussion leader fielding questions from viewers work particularly well in an online format. Her team has several of those planned for the coming weeks — including one aimed at helping student organizations stay active during a prolonged period of social distancing.

“I can’t say enough about our team right now,” Finley says. “They’re pivoting so quickly, they’re being creative, they are working so hard to keep students connected. I’m a ‘silver linings’ kind of person, and one of the silver linings of a challenge like this is that we’re finding new and creative ways to do things. And maybe we’ll discover some of those things are so great, they'll become part of our regular repertoire when we get back to normal.” 

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Want to browse the university’s latest lineup of virtual events? Check out the full events calendar.

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