The University of Indianapolis Residence Life team has put together a new series of weekly virtual talks to keep students connected during this time of quarantine and social distancing.
Titled “ResLife Talks,” the meetings are held in a podcast-style format and cover a variety of topics residents may be interested in, according to Assistant Director of Residence Life Kyle Johnson. The talks are hosted on Fridays at 12 p.m. and are available for any students to join via Zoom. Johnson said that every student that joins these talks is entered into a raffle to win a prize from UIndy’s bookstore.
The first ResLife Talk was hosted by Johnson, but various resident directors take turns running the show each week. The second talk was hosted by the RDs of East and Roberts halls, Evan Whitaker and Lauren Drogo, respectively.
The idea for this more relaxed format came from the desire to meet students where they are, while accounting for the constraints of quarantine, according to Drogo.
“We wanted to still find ways to engage with students, whether they were still here on campus or back home, because we recognize how hard it is to find ways to engage ourselves, whether mentally or physically, right now with the quarantine,” Drogo said. “Part of why ResLife exists is to engage students, and so we didn’t want to lose that part of us through this time.”
The first ResLife Talk covered current pop culture items. According to Johnson, the conversation ranged from popular music, the reality TV show “Tiger King” on Netflix, the Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and how students have adjusted to life in quarantine.
The second talk’s topic was “Food and Culture.” Participants were invited to watch Whitaker, Drogo and a few resident assistants make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and join in virtually from their own kitchens if they wanted. After the food was prepared, a conversation was initiated about the resident’s experience with food in their families and culture.
Johnson said this program was created to specifically meet students’ need for connection. Because of the social distancing orders, most people are experiencing some degree of isolation or, at the very least, limited social contact.
“I’m really working to try to shift the mindset from social distancing to physical distancing,” Johnson said. “We shouldn’t be near each other obviously for our wellbeing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be social.”
According to Johnson, the talks give students the chance to meet new people and establish social connections with other residents as well. The staff members facilitate this, make introductions, and ensure the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable.
“[We] just really want students to know we’re still here, you know, we’re still available even though we’re not in person,” Johnson said. “We want to support them and make sure that we’re meeting their needs.”