By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Community spirit is an important part of student life at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
The residence halls on campus are usually buzzing with activity as Lopers gather for study sessions, attend social activities or hang out in the lounges.
However, there’s been a much different feeling inside these buildings over the past few weeks. Because of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, most students elected to leave the residence halls as they complete the semester through remote learning.
Only a fraction of the roughly 1,400 students who lived on campus remain.
“It’s a little odd because it’s so quiet,” said UNK sophomore Holly Rockenbach, a resident assistant in Randall Hall.
Rockenbach, a communication disorders major from York, believes the close-knit campus community is a major selling point for many UNK students, especially those living in residence halls. It’s her favorite thing about the university.
To maintain those social connections during the coronavirus pandemic and help Lopers engage with each other from a distance, UNK Residence Life launched a new program last week through its Facebook page.
Lopers Live is a video series featuring fun activities led by resident assistants, as well as resources such as mental health advice and remote-learning strategies.
“Our department is very focused on belongingness and community development,” said Trelana Daniel, an associate director in UNK’s Office of Residence Life. “We want students to feel like they belong here on campus, even though they’re not here with us.”
Lopers Live also gives RAs an opportunity to showcase their creativity. So far, their videos have included television show and video game reviews, decorating and style tips for residence hall rooms and a UNK trivia night.
Rockenbach hosted the trivia night with Hannah Carhart of Norfolk, then she partnered with Sara Ripp of Hastings on a cooking demonstration “with a college twist.” The RAs made macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies, using coffee mugs and a microwave instead of a stove or oven.
“They turned out pretty good,” Rockenbach said with a laugh.
Because the RA activities air live, people watching at home are able to make comments, ask questions and interact with the hosts.
“It’s fun being able to communicate and joke around with people, even if you’re not physically with them,” Rockenbach said. “Since we can’t all be together on the floor like we normally are, this is kind of like a substitute. People can still see their RAs making these videos and interact with them virtually.”
A new Lopers Live episode appears on the UNK Residence Life Facebook page at 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. They’re also archived on the Facebook page, so people can view them at any time.
Wednesday evenings focus on mental health and wellness tips, which are increasingly important as students adjust to a new way of life during the coronavirus outbreak. On Friday evenings, UNK faculty members talk about how students can maintain academic success during remote learning.
“We want to make sure students know there are resources available to them,” said Daniel, who has been impressed by the viewer engagement through the first two weeks of Lopers Live.
“The number of people who are watching these videos indicates to me that there are a lot of people who are very interested in what’s happening at UNK,” she said. “They miss the community. They want to be a part of it.”