Creating community despite Covid

Students and leaders at Castleton University have been working on organizing activities and programs, like the Castleton Cup, bonfires, and weekend events to bring students together safely during COVID this semester.

There are opportunities for students to be a part of Castleton and included in their communities, they say, even if they’re living off of campus.

“That’s an ingenious COVID-19 response,” Dennis Proulx Dean of Students said of this year’s Castleton Cup, a floor-versus-floor competition for honor, glory, and pizza. “It’s a multiple layered approach that works within COVID, which I find unique and remarkable.”

There are many who are committed to reestablishing and redefining what community is, in any way they can.

“It’s them as individuals that are doing it,” said Proulx. “The university has mechanisms to try to help them, but it’s more remarkable that people are doing it, because they certainly could just go to class and forget about trying to build a community… But here are people who are trying to engage with each other under the Castleton banner because it’s important to them.”

“We’re seeing students, that might not have, come out to programming because they want to engage in our community and they want some sort of normalized experience,” said Shaun Williams assistant director of Residence Life. “Our CAs and our Campus Activities Board and our clubs are trying to create activities and experiences during COVID, which is a challenge, but they’re going above and beyond because they know how important these experiences are to the college. They’re going above and beyond to make sure our students are safe and are still able to partake in programming and activities and feel that connectedness to Castleton.”

Those involved in campus programs and initiatives have an important role in developing a strong college environment during the pandemic.

“We have our community advisors who live on campus and each month we give them a theme for programming and for bulletin boards,” said Williams. “We ask them to create these boards, based on what they’re seeing and the needs of students in the residence halls.”

This October, Emily Benz, who is one of the community advisors, created a bulletin board called Hocus Pocus Keep Your Focus. It’s an incredibly artistic way to present information discussing how residents can retain or improve their focus.

“It’s engaging and our students love it. They’re so impressed and blown away by how much time and effort she put into it. People are just gawking at it; it’s the talk of the town right now,” Williams said.

Students aren’t only interacting with the on-campus events this semester. A lot of students are living elsewhere, which has led to reaching out to home communities.

“It’s a very unique circumstance,” said James Wolfe, graduate assistant of student life. “Castleton doesn’t mean one zip code; it isn’t just 05735. It’s worldwide, there are Castleton students everywhere.”

Proulx agreed.

“They’ve had circumstances thrust upon them and they’re making the most of it,” he said of the Castleton students currently residing in other states and other countries.

There are non-residential students who are taking or making opportunities wherever they live, such as one club member who moved to California and is creating a clothing business.

“She is out there and going to school online… and she has the

opportunity there to start up her own clothing business. What an opportunity that is, as a senior, to start your own business,” said Proulx. “You’re a Castleton student and you’re engaging with the community beyond the gates of our college while also participating internally through online classes at the same time.”

No matter their surroundings, students are being resourceful, getting involved, and making a difference around them.

“Everybody is trying to find the community we lost when we moved off campus,” said Proulx.