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Students at Bloomsburg University have expressed over the course of the last year a noticeable change in the student body. A community once full of passion and participation has seen less and less engagement.
This lack of engagement has manifested itself in students not attending classes, ignoring deadlines for assignments, and simply not taking the initiative to join extracurricular activities. While there are certainly students out there who are devoting their time and attention to their academic responsibilities and are getting involved on campus, their drive seems to be in the minority.
Some point to the COVID-19 pandemic as being the root of this issue.
“I think it’s hard for students to adjust to life after the pandemic. We went from being completely online and isolated to being thrust back into the way things were,” said freshman Averie Engle, who experienced the pandemic her sophomore year of high school.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on college students, the youngest having experienced it in high school. At the peak of the pandemic, students were experiencing severe cases of a lack of engagement. It was common for students to not show up to zoom classes or simply not do any assignments because many districts enforced pass/fail grading scales. The consequences of those actions didn’t seem to be enough to encourage participation. Some argue that this pattern is still prevalent today among students, even though the restrictions around the pandemic have since been removed.
“I don’t think students have made that mental shift from online schooling to in-person yet,” said Engle.
Professors have also noticed this change in students both in their regular classes and in the clubs they oversee.
“Post-COVID students are not pre-COVID students,” said Dr. Richard Ganahl, the founding faculty advisor to BUnow and a professor in the Media and Journalism department.
Ganahl believes that this new generation of post-pandemic students now seek more meaning in the content they engage in.
“Today students are willing to engage at a very high intensity, but on their own terms as they’re juggling more of life’s real-world challenges in [real-time]. They want meaning in what they do,” said Ganahl.
Dr. Steven Mehl, a counselor within the Counseling and Human Development department at Bloomsburg University, shared a similar line of thought. He argues that meaning is incredibly important to students, now more than ever. He encourages professors and students to start a dialogue within their classes on why the content they’re learning about is meaningful.
“If it’s not meaningful [to students], it’s not going to be interesting [to them],” said Mehl.
He believes this method can be applied to even getting students involved in clubs and organizations. Mehl takes the example of explaining how a student’s love for guitar and music can lead to a meaningful experience working within broadcasting on campus. He argues all it takes is a little time and effort in making that connection within the student’s mind.
With every generation that passes through Bloomsburg University’s halls, each faces challenges specific to that moment in time: civil unrest, political tensions, technological advancements, and worldwide pandemics. Despite the current obstacles surrounding student involvement, faculty and members of the active student body continue to work hard to engage students at all levels.