SRU Student Affairs outlines goals to reengage students in the fall


Rocky helping during WoW

Slippery Rock University Student Affairs programming, such as Week of Welcome when students move into their residence halls, will be tailored for all types of students to engage them after many were away from campus during the pandemic.

May 26, 2021

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Campus life at Slippery Rock University is expected to be very different this fall when compared to the previous two and a half semesters. Courtesy of COVID-19, those semesters allowed for only about one-quarter of the University's usual number of residential students and just 20% of classes to occur in person compared to pre-pandemic levels. But with SRU planning to return to full capacities in August, the University's Student Affairs division is taking a strategic approach to reengaging with students -- or, for some students, engaging with them for the first time.

"We're basically asking ourselves, 'When our students come back in the fall, what are they going to need the most?,'" said David Wilmes, chief student affairs officer. "We've looked at what students experienced during the last year, how we can continue our traditional programming for freshmen, and also how we can create programming that is focused on sophomores, juniors and seniors so that everyone is included in our welcome back to campus and re-engagement with campus life."

In addition to an engagement/re-engagement plan, the Student Affairs division will also offer post-pandemic support and further develop programming related to leadership competencies to promote student success.

"Our goal is to help students build relationships among their classmates," Wilmes said. "The relationships that they perhaps built in a Zoom classroom are going to be very different than the ones that they create at a campus event. But also, another goal is to ensure that our students know about the campus resources that we offer that will help them be healthy and successful."

For example, there will be nearly twice as many students living on campus for the first time compared to pre-pandemic years. On-campus resources such as the Student Health Center or the ability to meet with a Student Support Coach were available remotely during the last year, but they might not otherwise have been fully used as the result of fewer students living on campus.

To meet its goals to serve students, the Student Affairs management team identified the following three areas of focus:

  • Engagement/re-engagement with campus. This includes the traditional Week of Welcome, the program known simply as WOW that helps new students move in and get settled at the University prior to the first day of classes. Student Affairs is also developing separate programming for sophomores during WOW and for the entire month of September to build community among second-year students and affinity to SRU, as well as connecting them to on-campus, in-person resources and services. Programming for juniors and seniors will focus on counting down toward graduation and preparing them for the next stages of their lives.

  • Post-pandemic support. Karla Fonner, director of student support, identified four areas that the Office of Student Support will focus on based on student concerns prior to the pandemic, Care Referrals during the last year and emerging research related to the long-term effects of COVID-19. They include 1.) emotional changes (chronic stress, burnout, lack of motivation), 2.) financial changes (family member's job loss, students having to work in addition to taking classes), 3.) social changes (feelings of isolation and being reintroduced to social settings), and 4.) long-term effects of COVID (physical and mental health complications). In response, OSS and other contributors will provide students with a series of workshops and programming to address the four areas, as well as training for faculty and staff on how to help students who may experience a trauma response to the pandemic.

    For example, one workshop series for students during WOW is titled "ReBoost your Brain," led by Boost, Student Support's group of certified peer educators, who will cover topics that include exercise, eating healthy, journaling and other self-care practices.
  • Leadership competencies. All Student Affairs programming will align with a leadership competencies model developed by Corey Seemiller, author and professor of leadership studies in education and organizations at Wright State University. Each month, Student Affairs will select one of 60 Student Leadership Competencies to focus on as a division for programming, student employee training and one-on-one student conversations.

More details about WOW and other Student Affairs programming will be available in the coming months on the WOW webpage and CORE, SRU's online platform for student organizations. More information about Student Affairs at SRU is also available on the University website, or by calling 724.738.2155 or emailing

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854  |