Bauer Leadership & Engagement Team Pivots to Virtual Programming for Students
In order to keep students engaged in a now mostly online world, Bauer College’s Leadership & Engagement team hosted virtual events throughout the summer and fall semesters.
Led by Leadership Initiatives Program Manager Allison Keithly and Student Engagement Program Manager Tierra Walters, the events included planned Alumni Coffee Chats, Bauer Bingo Night, Virtual Workouts, Networking Events, Big Bauer Trivia Night, and more, continuing the successful “Bauer Summer Series,” developed by the college’s Leadership & Engagement team as a means to continue safely delivering engagement and development opportunities to students, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the last year, Bauer's Leadership & Engagement Team has hosted more than 100 events to keep students engaged in a virtual setting due to COVID-19.
“I would just like to encourage students to take the time to get involved even if we are in a virtual environment. Take advantage of the opportunities to meet new students, join a student organization and push yourself outside of your comfort zone,” Walters said. “I think if students can lay the foundation for being involved now, when they return in person they will definitely see the benefits of that.”
We spoke to Walters and Keithly about the initiative they ran this summer and fall and how they engaged students in a virtual setting.
Q: How did you come up with the ideas for events?
AK: “We got the ideas from everywhere. Sometimes, we had both read about an idea on a blog or in a Facebook group, other times it came from experiences we had with friends. I think earlier on, I just started reaching out to people I knew (mostly alumni) to see if they’d come out and talk to students. It really became a ‘Who’s Who’ of people Tierra and I knew who were free and willing to engage with our students. Then it was just a chance for us to try things we really liked. I’m super passionate about fitness and so I tried a lot of events related to fitness like having yoga instructors or doing virtual runs. Tierra is great at planning fun and engaging events, and she led the charge on things like Bauer Bingo and our Ted Talk Thursdays.”
Q: How many events did you hold in total?
AK: “Over the summer from May-July we held over 100 events. These included everything from roundtables with professionals, Alumni Coffee Chats, Ted Talk Thursday, Bauer Bingo, Bauer Trivia, and a variety of social and fitness events like Fitness Friday and Netflix Party Thursdays. We saw over 1,000 attendees at events (this included duplicates aka a student who attended multiple events) and engaged with close to 300 unique students.”
Q: Why did you want to stay virtually engaged with students?
AK: “I was initially interested in engaging students, because I felt so overwhelmed by what I knew students were experiencing. Almost overnight everything they had known changed and they were stuck at home. I wanted students to feel connected and engaged despite everything. I also started hearing so many reports of students losing their internships and even full time offers and it was only March. I also wanted to help them network, which is why I put so much effort into events like our Alumni Coffee Chats and events featuring professionals like the collaborations we did with HPE and KPMG. Students need connection and they also need opportunities to network.”
TW: “I wanted to stay engaged with students because I know that student engagement is critical to student success. There were several mid-semester and end of the semester events that we were looking forward to having on campus. I wanted to find a way for students to still experience some of the events they were missing out on. Additionally, once we started planning for the fall semester, we realized that there were several incoming freshmen and transfer students that were new to Bauer. We wanted those students to be able to make meaningful connections with other students and feel welcomed to the Bauer family.”
I would just like to encourage students to take the time to get involved even if we are in a virtual environment. Take advantage of the opportunities to meet new students, join a student organization and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Student Engagement Program Manager
Q: What were the benefits of staying virtually connected to students?
AK: “The biggest benefit of staying connected virtually to students was the benefit given to the students themselves. Students were really confused and overwhelmed in the spring. This gave them a way to be engaged during a time when people felt so far apart from each other. I think for students specifically, the biggest benefit was the networking. Students had a chance to network with each other and with professionals, which was huge. For Tierra and I, the biggest benefit was just the opportunity to be creative. I saw both of us really push ourselves as professionals to be innovative and try new things despite the circumstances. It was also great to work with one of my favorite coworkers so closely. Tierra and I have been working closely together for the past few years and I feel like every time we work together we create something incredible. This past spring/summer and into the fall have really continued to prove that for us.”
TW: “I believe the virtual engagement offered the students something to look forward to. It was an environment that was engaging, fun and sometimes competitive, but the students were able to meet new students and make meaningful connections. For me personally, I definitely struggled with the transition to the virtual environment. Allison definitely took the lead in several ways and she inspired me to do more and she gave me the extra push that I needed. I was able to develop a closer relationship with Allison as well as with the students.”
The biggest benefit of staying connected virtually to students was the benefit given to the students themselves. Students were really confused and overwhelmed in the spring. This gave them a way to be engaged during a time when people felt so far apart from each other.
Program Manager, Leadership Initiatives
Q: What were your favorite events?
AK: “Personally, my favorite individual event was the Bauer Trivia Night. It was so fun to do and we had over 60 participants. It really helped me learn how to use Zoom in a meaningful and exciting way. It was also great, because I could tell students were really having a ton of fun and enjoying the event. Overall, I absolutely loved (and still love) the Alumni Coffee Chats. It’s been so fun to reconnect with so many of my favorite alumni and also to just see them interact with students. Alumni love talking with current students and sharing their experiences. It’s a really meaningful way to engage. We also had an event with a Registered Dietitian. Her name was Starla Garcia and she’s also an alumni of the UH Track Team. She talked to students about how to stay healthy and manage eating when you’re stuck at home. I loved the way our creativity really grew in this time.”
TW: “It’s definitely hard to determine my favorite events, but if I had to choose, I would select the Bauer Beauties event which featured Rija Arif (a Consultant at Capgemini, but also a social media influencer). I also liked the Show and Tell event, where students were able to turn their Zoom cameras on and show us a meaningful item and discuss why it mattered to them. I was able to learn so much about students that you do not normally have an opportunity to learn at ‘traditional’ on-campus events.”
Q: Do you plan to have virtual events even when we come back in-person?
AK: “As for what we’ll do when we are back in person, I think we have no idea is the honest truth. Tierra and I are huge planners, but at this point we can only take it a few months at a time. We do plan to continue virtual engagement in the spring. This fall we’ve scaled back to account for students being more involved with their student organizations and classes.”
TW: “I think it’s definitely something to consider. I know that the university has added HyFlex classrooms which would allow us to have events in person as well as have students join us virtually. We know that students have busy schedules so potentially offering a variety of ways to engage is definitely something to consider.”