Building community: How student groups are welcoming students in Fall 2020

The Interdepartmental Science Students' Society shares some of its plans to build community remotely in Fall 2020.

News Staff - 16 July 2020

The global COVID-19 pandemic has required a mass migration to the digital world—but that doesn’t mean a stop to student community connections. For incoming students in Fall 2020, the Interdepartmental Science Students' Society (ISSS) is already making plans to help ensure a continued sense of community, even in an online world.

Instructors in the Faculty of Science are hard at work preparing to deliver quality content remotely, and student groups like ISSS are also rising to the challenge to make their classmates feel welcome. Aakankshya Kharel, vice president (services) of ISSS, shares how the student society is supporting incoming and returning students.

What activities does your group engage in/support?

ISSS manages services, organizes events, and uses its funds to provide resources for Faculty of Science students. Some of our supports include mini study groups, printing services, and locker services. Throughout the year, we also host events such as Science Week, March Madness, First-Year Orientation and holiday-themed activities to engage science students and give them a sense of community on campus. Additionally, we design and give out resources such as free Faculty of Science specific handbooks and ISSS-designed merchandise such as water bottles.

How are you planning to adapt your student group activities to create a sense of community remotely?

ISSS is currently planning to hold several virtual events for the incoming first-year students, including events during orientation, a virtual mentorship networking event to connect student mentors with mentees, and Instagram Q&As. We are engaging students on social media through activities such as "Faculty of Science Bingo". Additionally, ISSS councilors will be holding live Instagram Q&As throughout the summer. More details about these events will become available on our website and on our Instagram in the coming weeks.

As for my portfolio as VP Services, we are working to make our annual handbook digitally accessible so students who are not in Edmonton can still use it. We also plan to offer a pick-up option for printed handbooks. To support students with their locker item retrievals, we have been communicating with our classmates to organize building access in accordance with policies by UAlberta Facilities and Operations. We have extended the rental date for all Winter 2020 Lockers to the first week of Winter 2021 so students will not have to worry about paying extra fees or confiscation. These logistics will be modified as there are updates to university regulations and public health guidelines. All updates will be communicated in mass emails.

Any other messages of encouragement for new and returning students?

I would like to encourage students to reach out if they have any concerns regarding academia or university in general. ISSS is happy to help in any way possible or re-direct students to the appropriate services and support. Changes surrounding COVID-19 are unprecedented but ISSS is committed to supporting Science students virtually.

As the University of Alberta prepares to continue delivering course content primarily remotely in the Fall 2020, the Faculty of Science has connected with some of our top instructors and scientists to illustrate what the university experience will look like in the Fall 2020 term. While delivery may look different, what remains the same is our strong commitment to an engaging and quality education and experience for our students. 

Learn more about how the University of Alberta is preparing to engage students for September and beyond on our Fall 2020 hub. 

Students, faculty, and staff can stay up-to-date with the latest information on COVID-19 for the campus community online.