Building Community Virtually by Emily Norton and Kirsten Morrow

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The transition to working remotely was difficult to say the least. We both have young kids at home and finding the time to spend with them and providing support and schooling took an adjustment. Work now happens during the day, late at night and on the weekends. The primary nature of our work is bringing students together and building community, and we do that through face-to-face interactions and group gatherings. We strive to build community and provide opportunities for student involvement. In a fully remote world, we had to rethink everything we do.

Perhaps the most difficult thing about this process was how we started. We began by going through our schedule of events and taking the necessary steps to cancel all of them. All of our events are planned with the idea of bringing our students together in order to create connections with each other and the school as a whole. Having to wipe out that schedule of programs was an emotional challenge because we knew that the sense of community we helped build was something that meant a lot to our students and faculty. We mourned the loss of our programs as we turned our focus to building new opportunities for virtual community building.

While it has been hard building the road as we are driving on it, we feel comforted and empowered to take risks and make mistakes like we haven’t before.

This spring, some transitions were easier than others. We could hold Student Government Association meetings successfully on Zoom and guest speakers could be IMG_1499done virtually as well. The loss of in-person club meetings, athletics and trips proved to be a much larger challenge. An important aspect of building any community is access. We quickly realized that we would need to develop a series of both synchronous and asynchronous events. We felt that it was really important to have both live face-to-face times for people to meet and chat as well as chances for people to connect with MCC whenever it was convenient for their schedule. With the help of our part-time staff, we researched and brainstormed ideas. We created workout videos and family game nights and learned how to interact with people in ways that we had never considered before. This situation is unprecedented so we had no idea what would work and what wouldn’t. This really freed us up to try different things. One of our proudest moments was our ability to host our annual Student Engagement Celebration virtually. We were able to use the new skills we had learned in order to preserve something that has become an important part of our community. In this effort, we were very fortunate to have so much support from the college and our colleagues.

We look forward to connecting with our students in person in the future but we have learned so much from this moment about how to connect to our students virtually. While it has been hard building the road as we are driving on it, we feel comforted and empowered to take risks and make mistakes like we haven’t before. It hasn’t been easy, but there have been silver linings. We have been able to rethink and reevaluate student engagement, being more creative in the process. This has been a real learning opportunity for us moving forward. Our ability to be nimble and reactive is beneficial for the students and college as a whole. We have been lucky to have the summer to reflect on the experiences of spring and prepare for remote engagement and connection with students. We expect to have more challenges and uncertainty along the way but we know we can handle the bumps along the road. We are proud to work with a college community where faculty and staff have been flexible and quick to support our students. We hope that everyone is doing well and staying safe, and we look forward to seeing everyone again soon!

Virtual Welcome Month Events:

The Art of Budgeting: How to Stick to a Financial Plan

9/14 – 2pm

Learn the importance of building and tracking a realistic personal budget to achieve your financial goals. Sticking to a personal budget can help you eliminate unnecessary expenses and achieve monthly savings goals. Building solid spending and savings habits are essential to living a financially healthy life. To register, go to bit.ly/341Pf97

For more information, please contact Juan Breton at bretonj@middlesex.mass.edu.

STEM Career Speaker – Roboticist, Dr. Ayanna Howard

9/16 – 12-1pm

Dr. Ayanna Howard is a pioneering developer of robotic technology for pediatric health care, the founder and CTO of Zyrobotics and a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She will present on how students can best prepare to pursue careers in the technologies of the future in the AI economy, as well as discuss how AI will change the landscape of work and the potential social justice impacts of AI. For more information and to register, please email SSA@middlesex.mass.edu.

Up in the Air: Juggling Multiple Responsibilities Series – Building a Weekly Schedule that Works

9/16 – 2-3pm

Trying to figure out how to organize your week? Faced with multiple responsibilities (e.g. school, work, family, etc.)? Join us for assistance with building a schedule that will help you stay on top of all your responsibilities. For more information and to register, please contact Jessica A. Frost at frostja@middlesex.mass.edu.

Computer Science Career Panel and Virtual Networking Event

9/16 – 4-5pm

Geared toward Computer Science students, but all are welcome! The Computer Science Career Panel and Virtual Networking Event will welcome three panelists who work in the computer science industry to discuss their career journeys. We hope you will take this opportunity to learn about different careers in business information technology, including cybersecurity, management, and training. This initiative is funded through the MA Department of Higher Education’s FY20 Higher Education Innovation Fund. To register, click here to go to MassBay Community College’s website.

Constitution Day Featuring LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund

9/17 – 11am-12pm

Join the Office of Civic & Service-Learning for a talk and Q&A about the future of our democracy and how to organize in 2020 and beyond. Discussion will include voter suppression and what we as citizens can do about it, as well as how to mobilize and activate your friends, family and community to get involved to move our country forward. For more information and to register, please email civiclearning@middlesex.mass.edu.

Virtual Trivia Night

9/22 – 6pm

Middlesex Activities Council (MAC) is hosting a Virtual Trivia Night for MCC Students. Show off or start building your trivia skills with your MCC friends. Gear up to take on your Community College opponents later in the year! Prizes will be awarded if enough students participate. For more information and to register, please contact Emily Norton at studentengagement@middlesex.mass.edu.

Virtual Fall Fest

9/23 – 11am-2pm

Log on to Engage to celebrate the start of fall semester. Learn about resources to support your success and ways to get involved at MCC. For more information, please contact studentengagement@middlesex.mass.edu.

Diplomat in Residence Bill Gannon – Introduction to Federal Career Paths

9/23 – 12pm

Bill Gannon will be talking to students about career opportunities at the US Department of State and give an introduction to Federal Career Paths. All majors welcome. This month’s topics will be the federal job application process, as well as unique opportunities at Department of State for second language speakers and those in humanities or undecided majors. To register, go to this link. For more information, please contact careerservices@middlesex.mass.edu or frostja@middlesex.mass.edu.

Semi-monthly Wellbeing Series: Mindfulness

9/23 – 2-3pm

In this session of a series about different methods of wellness practices, we will explore mindfulness. With the various stressors that we experience daily, mindfulness can bring us back to the present and explore ways to reduce stress. After a brief discussion, you will be taken on a guided meditation. For more information and to register, please contact Jessica A. Frost at frostja@middlesex.mass.edu.

Free DIY Tie Dye Kits and MCC Shirt Registration Deadline

9/25 – 4pm

Middlesex Activities Council (MAC) is giving out limited number of FREE tie dye kits with MCC shirts. We hope you will join us and take home this fun, do-it-yourself project and show your MCC Pride. Registration is required at bit.ly/2QxigBD. Pick up times will be announced for the week of 9/28. For more information, please contact Emily Norton at studentengagement@middlesex.mass.edu.

First Presidential Debate Watch Party

9/29 – 8:45-10:30pm

Join the Office of Civic & Service-Learning as we watch the first of three debates between President Trump and former Vice President Biden. We’ll chat during the debate about the issues being discussed and how to get involved!

For more information and to register, please contact civiclearning@middlesex.mass.edu ​

SGA Elections

9/29 & 9/30 – All Day

Log on to Engage to vote for executive positions on SGA and amendments to the SGA constitution.

FYE Bingo

10/5 – 1pm

The old game of BINGO has never had more at stake! Part of our First Year Experience event series, students will complete in various BINGO games for prizes! For more information, please contact studentengagement@middlesex.mass.edu.

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