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Making connections: From pumpkin kits to virtual cooking classes, student leaders step up to keep classmates engaged

Ranita Opoku-Sarfo ’21

Ranita Opoku-Sarfo ’21 is Randolph’s Student Government (SG) president.

Ranita Opoku-Sarfo ’21, Randolph’s Student Government (SG) president, had a major goal coming into this academic year: increase the visibility of SG among her classmates.

“I wanted to make sure our presence was seen,” Opoku-Sarfo, who is double majoring in biology and global studies, said. “It’s a lot easier to do that on campus, but we’re still trying to bring that goal to life.”

She leads the organization’s regular meetings, which are open to the student body, virtually instead of in person. And subcommittees on academic affairs, campus life, and clubs and organizations have also worked together to engage students and keep them involved.

The group has been active on social media, sharing resources, promoting virtual events, and posting information about SG’s executive board and senators.

Early in the semester, SG sent out a survey to get feedback about remote learning and hosted a virtual town hall that was attended by both students and faculty.

“We wanted to know how to improve the student experience,” Opoku-Sarfo said. “The town hall was a chance for students to directly speak with us and elaborate on responses from the survey. It was for us to listen but also to
gather as a student body, support each other, and try to provide solutions. It started the conversation.”

Katlyn Collins ’22, a junior senator and chair of the campus life committee, said they also encouraged students to share aspects of their virtual campus life through interactive posts.

“We hope by doing so, students will feel like part of the Randolph community even while not being here physically,” she said. “We just want them to feel connected during these trying times.”

SG isn’t the only student-led organization keeping students active this fall.

Randolph’s Davenport Leaders were an important lifeline for first-years. They held Google Meets with their student groups for orientation, hosted occasional game nights, and created group chats where they could do one word or emoji check-ins to see how everyone was holding up.

“This semester is probably one of our most challenging,” said Davenport Leader Sha-Ron Bass ’22. “To make your Randolph experience the best it can be, you must get to know your fellow classmates and upperclassmen.”

Student organizations tried to foster those connections from a distance. Clubs continued to meet virtually. The Randolph Programming Board mailed art kits for a virtual paint party and held regular online events, ranging from trivia nights and scavenger hunts to cooking classes and a riff-off, all through Zoom and Google Meet.

The Traditions Committee kept Pumpkin Parade and Ring Week alive online, with goody boxes sent to go along with them.

Pumpkin Parade box

Randolph students celebrated Pumpkin Parade virtually this year. (Photo by Riley Lorson ’21) 

“We stuffed boxes with pumpkins, paint, T-shirts, and candles,” said Tanya Weigold, director of campus life. “It was an all-day project. The students loved it.”

Residence Life hosted weekly virtual events, with programming created by students for students. The line-up focused on various aspects of campus life, including academic success and resources; social justice, diversity, and inclusion; and social connections.

Offerings included a voter registration information session, speakers during Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Awareness Week, and tips on how to be successful virtual students.

“Our students are still making friends, meeting new people, and participating in the traditions,” Weigold said. “Just because they’re not here doesn’t mean we can’t provide that home and connection for them.”

There have been so many virtual events going on that Lisa Quell, coordinator of student engagement, created a new email, WildCat Weekly, to gather them in one place.

“The Randolph experience is more than just an education,” Opoku-Sarfo said. “Our campus community thrives through the formation of meaningful relationships, and the many resources that are provided. Virtual programming provides a way to keep our community going.”

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