On-screen salutations

How the UWSA moved Roll Call online

When the University of Winnipeg officially announced that classes would be almost exclusively online for the 2020 fall semester, Sam Sarty and her team knew that they needed to think outside the box and inside the screen when planning Roll Call.

Roll Call, formerly known as O-Week, is typically a days-long outing on the quad during the first week of fall classes, allowing new students to learn about campus organizations and volunteering opportunities.

Sarty, who is the events manager for the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA), says “it was a huge learning curve. Our event is usually a completely different thing: there’s a lot of music, free food, a lot of student interaction and connection. There’s a beer garden, student tabling, a frenzy of activity,” 

Sarty says a big consideration in moving the full-day frenzy of Roll Call online was the screen fatigue many students already face. 

“We know that students are going to be looking at their screen a lot, so (we needed to have) things at a variety of different levels of engagement,” she says. These include online workshops, live streams, giveaways and other virtual events. 

One of those events is a vision board workshop led by Karina Walker, the founder and workshop facilitator for Rising Strong. She hopes the exercise will help students feeling untethered by the pandemic. 

“I don’t know what my career goals are going to look like. No one really knows what the next six months are going to look like,” she says. “That might hinder someone from signing up for this workshop. But this (exercise) is important, especially if you don’t know what the next six months are going to look like, because we can still focus on who we are as people.”

She says the pressures of socially distanced life have also been considerations in how she leads online workshops. Walker will lead the group through a workbook, and there is no requirement that participants have all the necessary supplies to make a vision board at home. 

Cameras will be optional, “just so people don’t feel like they’re on display. If we were in a room together, we would be working on our own papers and not looking around, and I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to show up online, and people get concerned about how others are viewing them,” she says.  

Walker says sharing will also be optional and can be done either out loud or in the chat. She has also added a jump-in component for people to validate and relate to each other’s goals, “because when we do this in person, there’s a lot of dialogue. We’re here to relate to each other.”

Sarty says that virtual public space, approved student groups, a partnership with Tablespace coworking and a list of study spots throughout the city will be big components of the UWSA’s plan to foster a university community this fall. 

Virtual Roll Call 2020 runs from Sept. 9 to 11. For information and registration, visit theuwsa.ca/rollcall. Rising Strong will host additional workshops open to the public throughout the fall. For more information, visit @_risingstrong on Instagram. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 01 of The Uniter (September 10, 2020)

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