Director of Student Engagement Puts Spotlight on Virtual Activities for Fall Term

Phoenix staff report

Governors State University is gearing up for a fall semester full of challenges posed by dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Robert Clay, executive director of GSU’s Center of Student Engagement and Intercultural Programs (CSEIP), said he knows the transition to virtual classes and meetings has been rocky, but “students also are very familiar with social media which helps them interact digitally.”

Clay acknowledged that clubs and organizations play a major role in students’ college experiences, and he said his department was working hard to maintain an atmosphere that would be as close to “normal” as possible, but some events simply had to change.

He pointed to Homecoming Week, which typically draws among the largest gatherings of students and alumni all year. He said there certainly won’t be a pool party as there was in 2019.

“We can still do other things to participate (in Homecoming),” Clay said. “We can hold virtual concerts and art-based activities to engage in Homecoming.”

Clay mentioned that numerous GSU organizations had shifted to an online presence since the pandemic forced the curtailment of the spring term. The CSEIP oversees more than 80 clubs and organizations including the Phoenix.

During the spring and summer terms, the Student Senate has been very active online. It has sponsored such events as virtual “talking circles.”

“Two weeks ago, we talked about students’ thoughts regarding the murder of George Floyd,” Clay said. “Last week we discussed anxiety, and this week’s discussion is titled ‘Vote or Die.'”

One key issue, Clay acknowledged, is communication. He said the Student Senate has been sending emails regularly to the GSU student body to keep them engaged with the issues that affect the students.

Clay said he thinks the Phoenix has a special role to play in communicating with the students:

“The Phoenix, in my opinion, is the ‘Pied Piper’ of the University.””

— Dr. Robert Clay

Clay said he hopes the Phoenix will become more prominent on social media and digital outlets and thereby become a key conduit of information for the students.

Another tool available to the students is Jaguar Connection, and Clay said an event calendar was in the works and is scheduled to go live on Aug 15, after which it will be updated daily. Students can sign on to Jaguar Connection using their GSU username and password.

One sign that GSU is edging back to normalcy is the reopening of the school’s Advocate Health Clinic on July 27. The clinic, which is free to students and employees, does not provide Covid testing, but does offer vaccinations, physical exams, STI screenings and treatment for mild illnesses.

The clinic will continue to provide virtual visits for those not willing or unable to come to campus.