Students are beginning to return to college campuses across the state. At Utah State University administrators are balancing plans for both student safety and social life.
“Now that's one of our biggest concerns, especially with incoming freshmen, you know, they had, a pretty rough senior year and we know that they really wanted to have a good freshman year where they could kind of do the traditional things. It will look different. This here, there's no way around that," said Amanda DeRito, Director of Crisis Communication and Issue management at USU.
Despite these difference, DeRito said she believes there are many ways students can connect.
One way the university has adapted how students will engage socially is by changing the format of the orientation class for incoming freshmen called Connections. The course starts this week and is designed to help orient new students to campus and college life..
Lisa Simmons is the director of student orientation and said this year's Connections format will have students in a classroom for part of the day with an instructor and for another portion of the day some students will attend in person and others will watch via Zoom.
“And then there will be a couple of hours where they will be watching these workshops on zoom or doing these outside activities," she said.
Because of the challenges incoming students will be facing, program director Jenifer Grewe said connection faculty will do more mentoring than they have in the past.
“There are different opportunities where the connections, instructors will be able to reach out and connect with those individual students, even throughout the year," Grewe said.
Masks will be required for these school-sponsored events and activities, which according to data from the Centers for Disease Control can help slow the spread of the virus. However, as higher education campuses around the country welcome students back, many of the issues that arise are related to spaces colleges can’t control, like off-campus gathering.
When asked about their plan to combat this USU officials say they will educate students about the importance of masks.