Winona State University’s two campus housing associations, National Residence Hall Honarary (NRHH) and Residence Housing Association (RHA), said they have been finding ways to promote a community mentality for students living in campus housing while following social-distancing guidelines.
Matthew Sosso is the executive president of the Winona Chapter for the NRHH. Sosso was RHA’s executive for Finance and Fundraising last year, and now the NRHH president is giving him different experience with leadership through housing on campus with NRHH.
NRHH used to meet bi-weekly in person to plan and organize campus events, but now meets via Zoom to find ways to bring community to campus without having in-person events.
“NRHH has moved completely to Zoom for its meetings,” Sosso said. “Otherwise it’s business as usual.”
One of NRHH’s plans is to promote the use of window chalk to write encouraging messages on resident hall windows for passing students to see.
“It may seem small, but we can accomplish a lot if we work together,” Sosso said.
NRHH is looking for ways to boost positivity and encouragement while also checking on students and see how they are doing this year while being physically apart.
“We’ve thought about employing a sort of mood chart that utilizes memes placed on an x,y plane,” Sosso said. “We expect that by being able to use GIFs or memes to define how people are holding up we can produce a more easing means of communicating said feelings.”
Through these charts, NRHH hopes these emotion-driven conversations will emerge from roommates, friends and dorm neighbors to build stronger bonds between people.
“It’s certainly harder to develop a community in the residence halls, but I believe that through having these intentional conversations, we can help residents find others with similar interests who haven’t had the opportunity to meet because of COVID,” Sosso said.
Amanda Grober is the third-year executive president for RHA and said she has had to make many changes to make RHA work this year.
“It is one of the more challenging years for sure,” Grober said. “It was very challenging to come up with different ideas to recruit members or even get our information out to the halls. Other years it has been set in-stone dates and plans, but this year we had to start over.”
While the RHA executive board has had experience with in-person meetings and events, Grober said they are having a harder time planning events.
“At the training, many of us executive board members were very surprised that many hall councils already had meetings that were successful, and a lot of halls are already trying to plan events,” Grober said.
Because the halls had already started meeting, Grober said she learned from their process and decision making.
“Listening to the halls plan events was very interesting too because they already knew that they needed to buy prepackaged food and set up their event so that individuals are 6 feet apart and have hand sanitizer there as well as extra masks,” Grober said.
Grober also said many students have expressed concerns about not making friends because of the lack of events, roommates and physically being together.
“Some advice for campus students to keep together is to get involved. Student organizations have been working hard to make all events and social gatherings as safe and fun for everyone as possible,” Grober said. “It is a great way to meet new people, take a study break and learn something new about campus.”
Sosso wants to encourage students to find their community in housing and residence life.
“For those who are struggling to find friends or some form of community right now, people are here for you, they are your RAs, CMs and Advisors,” Sosso said. “Any one of them is there to help you find a way to belong, so let them help you.”
The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.