How 300 new SFU students move safely into residence and find community
By Natalie Lim
In early September, SFU welcomed 300 students to residences on the Burnaby campus. Although masks, plexiglass and physical distancing were new additions to this year’s residence move-in day, the Residence and Housing team still found innovative ways to connect with students while keeping them healthy and safe.
“Once we realized that COVID-19 precautions would continue into the fall, our team started brainstorming creative solutions for safely moving in a new group of students,” says Zoe Woods, director, residence and housing.
“Even though it was very different this year, we still had three great days of residence move-in. Our wonderful staff team worked together to show students how excited we are that they’re joining us at SFU.”
In previous years, residence move-in day has been a hands-on process, with more than 1,000 students moving in at once, and a host of volunteers and staff members on site to help students check in, find their rooms, and get to know the SFU community.
This year, students moved in over a three-day period, following a schedule of pre-determined check-in times to limit traffic in shared campus spaces. A smaller team of staff and volunteers greeted newcomers, set up directional signage, shared safety information, and answered questions. The Residence and Housing team also used a touchless check-in system for the first time: students received a QR code in advance of their move-in day, which they scanned on site in order to check in.
Although most classes are being held online during the fall semester, Woods says there are many reasons why students might still choose to live in residence. For example, varsity athletes who train on campus often prefer to live near campus training facilities, and some students may not have safe, alternative off-campus housing options.
Now that students are safely moved in, the Residence and Housing team is ensuring they feel supported. The team has created a six-week virtual welcome program that includes community-building activities such as game and movie nights, and even virtual escape rooms. Student staff members who live in residence are available to help students who have questions, want advice, or are just looking for someone to talk to.
“This fall, our main focus is making sure that all of our students in residence, both new and continuing, have the resources and supports they need to have a great semester. We’re continuing to work with campus partners, such as Health and Counselling, Student Engagement and Retention, and Campus Public Safety—and we’re getting creative ourselves—to ensure that those opportunities, resources and supports are available,” says Woods.
“It’s really important to me, and to the whole Residence and Housing team, that the students know we care about them. We want them to feel welcome, connected and engaged in community so they can be successful here at SFU, and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.”