By Kate Zanger, Vice President for Student Life
Is there anything that could have truly prepared us for life in a pandemic? Thankfully, the staff within Clarke’s Student Life division have a foundation of education and experiences that allowed us to create opportunities out of the many challenges that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. This approach is one of the strengths Student Life brings to our campus community. I am very proud of the Student Life staff at Clarke University and the way they have served students over the past year.
Campus Ministry has continued to connect with students individually and through virtual faith–sharing groups. Into the Streets, Clarke’s bi-annual service program, continued with safety strategies in place. The Busy Persons Retreats were more popular, due in part to the virtual format. The 5 p.m. Sunday Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel is now live-streamed, allowing students and alumni, near and far, to join us in worship.
Counseling Services continue to assist students in dealing with issues that prevent them from being the best student they can be. The virtual format for these meetings has been very helpful for students who may have otherwise canceled a meeting because they were unable to get to campus. The pandemic has increased the anxiety and depression experienced by students, and the Counseling Services team has helped students learn coping strategies throughout this difficult time.
Health Services has also moved to a primarily virtual format. The Health Services staff is the key contact for the general undergraduate and graduate students’ daily health screenings related to COVID-19. The team is also helping us obtain vaccines from the State of Iowa for our students and faculty in the health sciences and education who are recognized as a priority population for vaccine distribution in these early stages.
Athletic trainers are coordinating student athletes’ daily health monitoring and screening in addition to the work they do for each of our teams. We are extremely fortunate that each of our teams have been able to continue to practice and compete. The coaching staff has found new ways to recruit and connect with prospective students. In the fall, outdoor football and soccer games allowed limited spectators, which provided a sense of normalcy despite the mask-wearing and physical distance requirements. Indoor basketball and volleyball games have opened to a limited number of spectators selected by each team.
Resident students have adjusted to living in single rooms this year. As you might imagine, some appreciate it, while others would miss the comradery that comes from having a roommate. Resident Assistants continue to look for creative ways to help instill a sense of community among the residents. They have also continued to have a virtual relationship with BVM Sisters as prayer partners.
The Engagement & Intercultural Programs Office has been busy collaborating with the Margaret Mann Academic Resource Center to create a new pilot Peer Mentor Program this semester for students of color and first–generation students. A revised CU LEAD leadership program will also be launched this spring. Even during a pandemic, the staff continue to be creative and strive to meet our students’ diverse needs.
The Clarke Student Association continues to meet virtually and represents the students. The Clarke Activities Board and student organizations have offered over 200 virtual educational programs and entertainment programming during the fall semester.
In January, we welcomed over thirty new first–year and transfer students, including nine International students to the men’s soccer team from Germany, Japan, Honduras, and Brazil. These students will share their gifts and talents with our campus community, and we will be better for it. Some things never change, even in the time of COVID-19!