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.”

Categorized in: COVID-19 Community, COVID-19 News, Featured News, News and Features, Students


  1. Jill Dell'Abate says:

    Thank you Brittany. My daughter was told her orientation leader would text them about Zoommates but as of today she has yet to hear. Hopefully she will get the text soon.

  2. Brittany Soda says:

    Thank you for reaching out. Zoommates have been assigned; your daughter should hear from her Orientation Leader by today.

  3. Jill Dell'Abate says:

    You mention that Zoommates would be assigned on August 31st. My daughter hasn’t heard anything about it. Has that date changed?

  4. Olivia Pinsley says:

    Will freshman be assigned their roommate that they will hopefully have it in the spring semester when they return to campus? And can that person that is assigned as someone’s roommate be known now so they can get to know each other?

    1. Katrin Neitz says:

      Hi, Olivia, Thanks for your questions. Zoommates will not just be one-on-one pairings. Zoommates will be groups of three or four students. Zoommate assignments were not based on gender, and so they are not going to be automatically assigned as roommates in the future. However, if a student makes a positive connection with a Zoommate, that student can request that Zoommate as a roommate in the future. If you have any other questions, please let us know.

  5. Patty says:

    This sounds like a nice program. When will it be implemented? My son who is a first-year didn’t know about it.

    1. Katrin Neitz says:

      Hi, Patty, The Zoommate program will begin August 31. If your son hasn’t received information, we can share your email with Campus Life.

  6. Olivia Pinsley says:

    Zoomates is a great idea! Will a student be assigned zoomates which will be in their dorm/suite/ roommate , when they get on campus in the Spring? I think that’s important for them to build a relationship with their roommate / suite mates now before being on the campus. Also, when will those assignments be made?

  7. Diana Hennessey says:

    Thanks Katrin.

  8. Katrin Neitz says:

    Hi, Diana, Thanks for your kind words about this new program. We are passing along your suggestion to Campus Life.

  9. Diana Hennessey says:

    Thanks, this sounds wonderful! Can something like this be implemented for sophomores as well since they were remote for part of their freshman year and maybe missed out on some of the social aspects you are referring to?

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