Early fireside chat.

community

'Poolside chats' keep Surrey campus vibe alive

August 26, 2020
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By Rachel Wong

It’s easy to feel somewhat disconnected while working from home, but SFU’s Surrey campus community has discovered a creative way to keep the campus vibe alive — and have some fun while doing it.

It all started as a “fireside chat.”

Before COVID-19, Executive Director Steve Dooley and his administrative staff at the Surrey campus would meet daily in front of a fire log blazing on a screen, where they discussed their schedules and challenges.

But when the pandemic hit in mid-March and staff began working from home, staffer Fiona Burrows suggested that Dooley open up the fireside chats (which became on-line poolside chats this summer) to the entire campus. The goal: to maintain community connections during self-isolation.

“The actual experience over four months more than lived up to this goal,” says Dooley. “While on the call, as we both laugh and talk about serious issues of the day, there is a strong sense of community and togetherness.”

Cindy Lee, who started a new position as executive coordinator in the Faculty of Applied Sciences in May, says the poolside chats brought her a sense of community and belonging.

“It’s so pleasant to see that people are making an effort to get to know people in the community despite the challenges we face with the current situation,” says Lee. “Prior to attending the poolside chats, I felt like I was part of something really small… but these chats make me feel like I’m part of something bigger, like the entire Surrey community.”

Despite the virtual nature of the interactions, Dooley is excited to see how they might lead to in-person community-building.

“These chats are a bridge to when we can get back together. There are those who have been at SFU for some time and I had never met, and there have been staff who started their career during COVID-19 and they took the time to jump in the pool and say hello. It’s so refreshing to see new faces, and I can’t wait to meet them all in person.”

Dooley plans to continue with the chats into the fall.

“As the weather gets cooler, the fireside chats will make a return,” he says. “If it’s not already happening, I’d encourage other SFU departments across all of our campuses to make time to regularly connect with one another. It’s my challenge to you.”

Last poolside chat.