Reimagining Student Engagement
An Interview with Jasmine Pulce, Assistant Director in The Cultural Center
How has your work changed, adapted, and shifted in this virtual world?
The transition to virtual engagement gave my students and me a chance to flex our creativity. In addition to carrying out the mission of our office through programming, my other priority was to continue providing work opportunities for our student work-study team. Together, we found new and exciting ways to reach our community via social media by launching initiatives like "Quarantine Cravings" - an Instagram Live cooking show or "Monday Moves with Matthew" - a TikTok dance tutorial series. Additionally, connecting communities virtually felt easier in the sense that we did not have to compete for room reservations or worry about conflicting events as the overall amount of programming on campus decreased.
What ways are you and your department/team are trying to build community, connections, and a deeper sense of belonging virtually?
Almost immediately upon transitioning to virtual engagement, we created a community check-in series that was identity-based (e.g. Asian Community Check-In). Although our attendance waivered, it became an opportunity to meet new students and reconnect with old students, as well as have some much needed conversations about the presence of, or lack thereof, support for each community. After completing two rounds of check-ins, my team left with valuable insight regarding where students feel a strong sense of support and community, and where they don't. Overwhelmingly, all students credited their sense of belonging and retention to the presence and engagement of undergraduate affinity groups. Additionally, two of our largest Spring quarter events, Profiles of Excellence and Lavender Graduation, were successfully hosted via Zoom and brought together prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, and graduating students and their loved ones.
What are some of the biggest successes you’ve seen as the world has shifted to a virtual experience?
For me personally, the shift to a virtual experience has created space for more intrinsic reflection and growth. I know many of my friends have said similar things and are reading, writing, and learning more than ever before.
I also believe that this pandemic has brought people together. Like many others, my family has started a weekly Zoom call - something we never would have thought to do before. Even when the risk decreases, I think this is a tradition we might keep doing to stay close to our family in different states (I am one of the few who no longer live in KY).
Additionally, since so many student affairs professionals were facing the same challenge in March - how to transition programs to a virtual platform - I saw an increase in resource-sharing via Microsoft Teams and social media groups. I have always loved looking at other institutions to see what programs they host and if they would be a good fit for DU. This increased willingness to share successes and challenges more broadly has been a great help to me and my team.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve seen as the world has shifted to a virtual experience?
Unfortunately, this pandemic has shed a light on many structural inequities like access to healthcare, a living wage, and technology. When K-12 and Higher Ed made the switch to non-traditional instruction, I knew families that did not have access to speedy WiFi, iPads, and laptops. I had family members who struggled to maintain their full-time jobs while teaching and caring for their children. I had friends who worked in the service and food industry who lost their jobs and faced difficulties navigating the unemployment process. The adjustment to working from home (if able) and isolating oneself from friends and family has been difficult for most, including myself. And if the virus wasn't enough, we have also seen more light shed on the realities of being Black in America today. Unfortunately, police brutality and racial profiling are nothing new for our communities. Per usual, we are expected to do the unimaginable: continue to go to work, continue to study for school, continue to keep the family going, and maintain your physical and mental health all while battling institutionalized racism. Even our own university has taken notice of the plight of the Black community by establishing Juneteenth as an institutional holiday, listing a "Black Excellence" initiative on the forthcoming Diversity Action Plan, and by listening to the demands of Black students.
If you could say one thing to the DU Community right now, what would you say?
I leave you with this quote, "It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." - James Baldwin
To learn more about The Cultural Center's work, visit: https://www.du.edu/culturalcenter/index.html