Although the University of Winnipeg (U of W) has eschewed almost all public events since the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, student groups did not disappear. Many are still alive and active, and the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) continues to assist student groups in different ways. The UWSA website lists these student groups and allows leaders to advertise what their group does and who potential members may contact for more information.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many student groups hosted in-person meetings on campus. These groups were advertised in classes and on physical posters. When the university introduced COVID-19 restrictions on March 13, 2020, these meetings moved online. As computers and phones became the main method for members of student groups to communicate, group dynamics changed, and leaders had to adapt.
“Being limited to virtual meetings and activities is especially hard for a witch group,” Kendall Pratap, the leader of the University of Winnipeg Wiccans student group, says in an email to The Uniter. “For example, I’ve tried holding meditation sessions online with my group but canceled it, since it was a bit awkward.”
Another group leader, Savannah Jolicoeur, coordinator of the PreVeterinary Club, says in an email that she has advertised her group through Instagram, word-of-mouth from professors and via other student groups. She found it difficult at first to garner interest for the group, because it first formed during the 2022 winter semester. However, she slowly managed to gather 14 students for group activities.
“The online format has worked out pretty well for the purpose of hosting guest speakers, since it eliminates the hassle of finding a venue and arranging a time that works for everyone,” Jolicoeur says. “Our general meetings have gone well over Zoom ... as far as sharing information goes, but it is definitely more difficult to connect with and get to know the group members through the online format.”
The UW Applied Computer Sciences Student Association also found it difficult to gather members during the pandemic. Jeetpal Singh, co-president of the group, says in an email “to resolve the issue, we started requesting the professors advertise the computer-science student club during their first few lectures every semester.”
Group leaders say they are not deterred from setting future goals and pushing for growth. Singh plans to host in-person events in the spring and encourage women to connect with the group. Jolicoeur is seeking to host guest speakers and help members prepare for enrolling in veterinarian school. Pratap is seeking a successor after graduating and wishes to secure a campus space to hold live meetings.
And, like many others, they all look forward to the university relaxing restrictions in the spring semester.
For a list of all current UWSA student groups, visit bit.ly/3JGmbpB.
Published in Volume 76, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 23, 2022)