‘Social connections are one of the most important components of having a successful and meaningful college experience’
By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis
As the lingering threat of the coronavirus leads higher education institutions throughout the country to make difficult decisions to continue virtual instruction through fall semesters, Lafayette’s Division of Campus Life has devised a way to ensure that the College’s first-year students won’t miss out on one particularly important experience while learning remotely: socializing with roommates.
This fall, a new concept called “Zoommates” will be introduced to the Lafayette community, which will provide first-year students a virtual outlet through which they can get to know each other. The driving force behind the program is that students will have an opportunity to form meaningful relationships with their classmates and start off their college experience on the right foot, just as they would with physical roommates.
“Social connections are one of the most important components of having a successful and meaningful college experience,” says Ken Burns, assistant director of residence life. “Due to being remote for the semester, we would like to offer first-year students as many opportunities to meet one another as possible. This allows students to meet peers who they might not have met through a traditional semester, and engage with them while possibly being hundreds of miles apart.”
According to Riley Godshall, special assistant to the vice president of campus life, each student will be automatically assigned two or three Zoommates at the beginning of the semester based on orientation groups. Orientation leaders will then help facilitate conversations between each Zoommates group and help point students to additional resources. Several programming events will also be held throughout the semester, which will offer Zoommates even more chances to connect with one another under different settings.
Students who do not wish to take part in the program will be given the choice to opt out; however, Burns and Godshall encourage all first-year students to participate. They explain that once students arrive back on campus, those with Zoommates will hopefully feel more confident and supported in their new environment knowing they’ve already formed relationships with their peers.
While the program is only intended to run during fall semester for now, Burns hopes the Zoommates concept can live on in the future—whether the campus is remote or not.
“We intend for this program to adapt and change over time,” he says. “Learning and growing is key for the program’s success. How we incorporate Zoommates in a traditional semester of learning has yet to be discussed, but we are optimistic for the road ahead.”