This year has been difficult no matter a student’s year here at Winona State University because it’s been filled with uncertainties and adaptations.
As a first-year college student, one of the biggest concerns is trying to make new friends and making the university feel like home, which is where campus involvement comes in to play.
Before COVID-19 it was easy to go to campus events hosted by many different organizations. Now, it’s nearly impossible.
The Phi Theta Chi sorority knows this all too well.
Entering her first year at WSU, Nicole Banicki didn’t really know what to expect as COVID was in full swing.
She decided to join Phi Theta Chi in hopes of making connections with people at WSU.
Phi Theta Chi is a sisterhood that holds fundraising and social events throughout the school year according to their website.
This allowed her to immerse herself into the university, as well as make friends “It’s hard to make friends right now, because there’s no social events” Banicki, said.
COVID has also been difficult for older students like senior Skylar Smiley.
Smiley has been in Phi Theta Chi for three years and holds four positions within the sorority which involves event planning.
One of the events she organizes is Rush Week which is where she tries to recruit new members to the sorority.
This is important for Phi Theta Chi because it’s a smaller sorority that typically has “13 to 15 members but this year, they dropped to 11” Smiley, said.
Instead of doing it in person Smiley shifted Rush Week to online by hosting multiple different nights between January 19-29 some of the nights included creating your own birth chart and distanced gaming.
Aside from Rush Week, Smiley has had difficulty trying to adjust with other events such as tabling and fundraising.
Smiley stated, “without tabling, it’s just been really weird to have to do the events without like physically being there.”
A fundraising event they can’t do is their annual bake sale, where they sell baked goods on campus.
COVID makes bake sells impossible.
They have turned to alternative ways to raise money. Phi Theta Chi is not a nationally recognized sorority, so they raise their money locally.
One alternative is virtual raffles where Phi Theta Chi used social media to raise money.
All-in-all Smiley said last semester they were able to host a couple in person events such as a chalking event to counter-protest the Warriors for Life chalk display on campus.
Smiley also said the transition was difficult at first. Now with dedication from all the women they are still about to keep that sisterhood connection Through virtual games such as Among Us, virtual meetings, etc.
Since joining Phi Theta Chi, Banicki said the social aspect of the sorority has “made life happier”.
Even though she prefers to face to face interaction, she feels that communicating online has been helpful because time isn’t wasted going back and forth places.
Banicki and Smiley said they are now ready and feel safe to return to limited on campus events and are excited for what the future on-campus holds.
Smiley said, “As long as COVID numbers are down, and we do everything on campus, the way that campus asks us to, they would be comfortable having some in person (events)”.
Here is a link to Phi Theta Chi’s website