When she couldn’t meet students face-to-face, UIS Associate Director of Student Life Marie Watson stepped out of her comfort zone and into the social media spotlight.
She has been a regular face on weekly Student Life Instagram Live chats.
“That’s a positive thing about all of this, I have opened myself up to new opportunities and different ways of engaging with students,” said Watson, who admits she is more comfortable with small groups and one-on-one communication. “I’ve been putting myself out there on social media, and I’ve grown both personally and professionally.”
Each week, Watson has hosted the Student Life Instagram Live chats, which have featured a guest from the UIS campus. She said the engagement and energy with students has been high.
“As soon as we went to remote learning we had to think creatively. Student life is so tied into student success. It impacts how they live and what they experience.” Watson said she did not realize how underutilized technology was prior to remote learning.
Zoom has been instrumental in helping Student Life staff stay connected to students with face-to-face interaction. It is used for weekly trivia nights and Student Activities Committee planning sessions. And Watson credits Microsoft Teams for helping staff communicate and work remotely together.
She admits she is missing spring on campus. “I miss my students, I miss the smell of the food from the Food Studio,” she said “I miss the nice weather on campus, walking across the campus, seeing the flowers and trees. Our campus is so beautiful. I miss seeing the students out in their fashions. The mood is light and fun.”
She also said missing Springfest was difficult. “The SAC Traditions Coordinator and Springfest committee had all worked so hard to plan out Springfest,” she said. “Everything was looking beautiful, but next spring it will be 10 times better. It will build anticipation and that will be huge.”
Watson encourages graduating seniors to return to campus for Springfest 2021 and participate as alumni. “They can come back and rejoin the family, participate in Springfest and get their full experience of their last year.”
Watson wants all UIS students to know the Office of Student Life is committed to their success.
Planning has already begun on Welcome Week activities for the fall, with the hope that students will be able to return to campus.
Despite connecting remotely, Watson remains committed to helping UIS students have the best possible college experience. “I’ve come to understand that there are great days and challenging days. But it is important to be able to connect with my students through email, Facetime, Group Me, texting me, Zoom, whatever it takes. I want to know what they’re doing because I care, because of that relationship and connection I have with them.”