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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Campus connections promote a sense of community post-pandemic

Images of blue and green dragons, red-eyed sinister goblins, sea witches with white hair and roosters with haircuts from “Grease” filled English senior Gwynn Worbington’s 45-minute presentation. As she spoke, smiles spread across a dozen students’ faces and laughter lit up the darkened Liberal Arts and Humanities Building classroom.

The topic? Obscure childhood movies. For students who recognized the films, Worbington handed out candy as prizes.

The colorful presentation was part of an Aggie Kolbitar Society, or AKS, meeting. Kolbitar refers to informal meetings held by scholars such as C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien; they would read Icelandic epics around a fire, so close it was as if they were “biting the coals,” Worbington, director of AKS, said.

Kolbitar, a student organization at Texas A&M, includes Aggies from all majors. Meetings revolve around presentations like Worbington’s, along with discussions and debates on liberal arts topics including fairy tales, Howl’s Moving Castle, Edgar Degas and many more, according to their website. While membership declined because of pandemic shutdowns in 2020 and 2021, numbers are on the rise, Worbington said, because AKS encourages relationships between students.

“AKS gave me a sense of community,” Worbington said. “This organization has been a consistent reprieve from stress and has allowed me to connect with people who have the same interests.”

Building campus communities is vital for students’ success, student activities officials from Texas A&M and the University of North Texas, or UNT. Pandemic shutdowns prevented this, according to “Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It.” Of nearly 1,000 young adults aged 18-25 in 2020, 43% of the Harvard study respondents reported feeling lonely because of post-covid isolation, including university shutdowns to stop the spread of the virus. 

To mitigate the effects of isolation due to covid shutdowns, “Loneliness and Social Isolation – Tips for Staying Connected” by the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, recommends college students across the country involve themselves in student organizations college campuses have to offer.

Student organizations are the easiest way for students to create a shared bond and do better in school, Christa Coffey, director of student activities at UNT, said. 

“Studies have shown that students who find their connections, social or otherwise, on campus are more likely to be happier at their institution, do better in classes, graduate from college and be contributing alumni,” Coffey said.

Students who feel connected to fellow students and their school show more engagement with their studies, according to “Peer Connection and Support,” an article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Organizations that allow students to play Dungeons & Dragons, knit or play soccer create an environment for students to find their fit on campus, Coffey said. At UNT, students can also attend campus-wide events such as the Mean Green Fling, a fair for student organizations and local businesses, and Family Fun Night, a night of activities and free food for student-parents, to discover new interests and learn how to socialize again post-pandemic, Coffey said.

“Our goal when we plan our big events is to help students make connections, develop camaraderie and build school spirit,” Coffey said.

At A&M, social connections on and off campus are encouraged by the national women’s organization Alpha Omicron Pi, or AOΠ, chemical engineering junior and member Maddy Simpson said. Members of AOΠ participate in activities that bond them with their community through clothing drives, book drives and food drives, kinesiology junior and member Peyton Craft. 

Such activities can combat feelings of loneliness because acts of service reinforce human connections, according to the NIH.

“We are big on community service and doing drives that will help the community here and in Dallas, San Antonio and across the world,” Craft said. “We love giving back to the community.”

Many AOΠ members participate in The Big Event, a student-led community service project and just one activity students can participate in at A&M, Erica Moore, administrative coordinator of the Student Organization Leadership and Development Office, said. 

Students can find information about upcoming events, activities and organizations on campus to connect with others through the MaroonLink website, Moore said. With over 1,000 student organizations to choose from, A&M has excellent student organizations that can benefit the student body through acts of service, Moore said. 

“The 12th Can works with Brazos Valley Food Bank and allows students in need to pick up packages of food,” Moore said. “CARPOOL is an organization that practices safe driving and helps students in need of transportation. They couldn’t operate because of certain restrictions due to the pandemic, but now they are back in action.”

While the pandemic restricted many organizations, it also caused events such as Silver Taps, a memorial service for Aggies who have died recently, to create virtual participation options that remain today, Jennifer Boyle, senior associate director of Student Activities, said. 

“During the pandemic, Silver Taps was held using a livestream,” Boyle said. “They had so many people all over the world watching the livestream that it’s something they continue to do to this day.”

Whether they meet virtually or in person, A&M student organizations membership is even higher than pre-covid numbers, Boyle said.

Katie Satterlee is an English senior and contributed this article from the course JOUR 490, Journalism as a Profession, to The Battalion.

 

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