St. Paul's residence dons didn’t let a pandemic keep them down

Thursday, May 20, 2021

dons on a walk

Living in residence for your first year is the cornerstone of most student’s post-secondary experience, but with many things impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, living on campus looked a little different this past year. 

“I love being a residence don at St. Paul’s,” says Meghan Wing. “While we knew this year would be different than others, all of the dons wanted to provide students with as much of a real university experience as possible.”

This meant managing frequent changes in public health guidelines while ensuring students still felt supported in building relationships and managing their studies. In normal times, residence floors would come together for common activities, but to keep things safe and to continuously abide by public health guidelines, most activities were scaled down to those living on the same residence floor. All activities required students to wear masks and socially distance where possible.

Hallo-weekend

One of the largest events to take place this year was a Halloween-themed weekend led by don Meghan Wing. Complete with costume and pumpkin carving contests, it took place while the province restrictions were reduced, allowing students to gather in larger groups.

Part of the weekend allowed students to use the many spaces with projectors across the College to host movie nights with 10 to 15 students per room. The unoccupied third floor of the West wing became home to decorated rooms and a haunted hallway filled with dons jumping out to scare students. Of course, Hallo-weekend would not be complete without some trick-or-treating; students were welcome to visit each of the common spaces around campus to pick up some sweet treats.

Group of students in costume, holding a pumpkinstudents dressed up as oompa loompas   students dressed up as monsters inc characters

Ice Rink

After winter break, provincial restrictions increased, which made planning activities and events more challenging, but it allowed the residence life team to get creative. Using the space and resources at the College, an outdoor ice rink was built by the facilities staff. The goal was to give students a reason to go outside during the colder months, get some exercise and bond with their floormates. An upper-year residence don was responsible for maintaining the rink and it was consistently used throughout the winter with a maximum capacity of five students.

“Student mental health is so important to us at St. Paul’s,” says Elizabeth Fletcher, residence life coordinator. “We knew there was something we could do to support student mental health while doing so, safely.”

Students loved the ability to step out onto their very own backyard ice rink whenever they wanted.

Floor Olympics

Throughout a series of competitions, dons Mikhaela Timoll and Matthew Koristka wanted a socially distanced way of bringing students together. This was accomplished by having individual floors of students compete against each other in six different events. Depending on the event, they would be completed virtually, outside, or socially distanced in the large space of Alumni Hall. The six events consisted of sitcom trivia, a Mario Kart Relay race, name-that-tune, the newly ‘floormate’ game, Family Feud and a large scavenger hunt spanning across the city of Waterloo.

“It was so awesome to see the students get excited about the competitions,” says Timoll. “Some students even got together to make tie-dye shirts as a team for the events!”

All the students were able to view their team’s scores on a large board displayed in Watson’s Eatery daily and the winning floor team was awarded pizzas delivered to their rooms at the end of the term.

Floor Olympics score boardStudents competiting in mario kart relay raceStudent group shot of floor empire

Prom 2020

Due to the pandemic, this year’s incoming first-year students had to miss out on attending their senior proms in 2020. But don Mikhaela Timoll took it upon herself to give students a night they will never forget.

Decorated Alumni Hall

Complete with homemade prom tickets, corsages and decor covering the walls of Alumni Hall, Timoll went all out. The students living on her floor got to dance the night away in the formal wear they never had the chance to wear, take typical prom posed photos donning the latest in face mask fashion and enjoy a ‘fancy’ meal in the form of McDonald’s delivery.

Community Mural

Started by alum Jason Panda (BA'01), this year’s students participated in a community art project that would come together as a beautiful mural to be showcased within a hallway of the College. Each student had the opportunity to paint a piece with specific instructions on the colours to paint each portion.

The project allowed students to come together with a common goal and build something beautiful as a cohort.

mural

While these larger events took place throughout the year, smaller-scale activities included socially distanced walks, paint nights done in the doorways of student rooms and decorating Christmas cookies with kits delivered to each of their doors.

“University is so much more than getting an education,” says Fletcher. “Living in residence, you’re gaining academic skills, social independence and the soft skills to make you a well-rounded person.”

While this year posed many challenges for both the residence life team and the students, it allowed them to get creative, think on their feet, find new ways to engage with one another and do what we do best at St. Paul’s- build a strong community.

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