For Missouri Southern State University students living off campus, staying connected with the University community can always be a bit of a challenge. With social gatherings hinging on the health and safety concerns of social interaction during a global pandemic, staying connected is even more difficult and requires a certain amount of dedication to keep in touch with other members of the campus community. Taking advantage of campus activities or events offered to students is vital for a rich college experience and building an established network which is invaluable after graduating. 

For a student commuting to class every day, the access to creating those connections is not the same as students living in the dorms or campus apartments. Living off campus adds an extra amount of cost and consideration to how you will spend your time and resources at the University each day. Travel time in the morning, in the evening, or between classes is an additional aspect to consider when campus events are taking place.

When an event is too late in the evening, not during or near times already committed to being on campus, or overlapping with a class, any student might not take the valuable time, energy or resources to attend. The farther a student commutes each day only increases their disadvantages in staying connected to the people and activities happening at Missouri Southern, but these connections are vital to building a community, resourceful network, and an overall richer college experience.

Under the context of COVID-19, there are added personal health concerns, campus policies, and local health standards that create a greater disconnect between everyone in the campus community. Because of the social disconnect, given the opportunities and resources offered, safely staying connected is an option and still important. There are many resources available to students who want to stay connected and be an active member of the campus community and they are invaluable for all students to have access to while attending the University. Professors often keep their students up to date with events within the department or related to classes. A student who wishes to take advantage of these times outside of class has found a great way to meet new people and be involved.

While the number of in person events are limited both in number and attendance this semester, virtual activities and events are growing. The University’s activity on social media platforms and online student platforms, like Blackboard and email, encourages students living both on and off campus to stay connected and keep in touch despite physical and social distance. In some ways, these circumstances have opened a door to new resources and opportunities to stay connected and involved on campus.

Some events in the past have offered students the opportunity of meeting and speaking with speakers, professors, and students from around the world including international photographer Örjan Henriksson from Sweden, printmaker and professor Michelle Martin from Tulsa, Okla., and professor of Notre Dame and artist Emily Beck, to name a few. Making these connections can be very helpful to all students who want to be more involved and grow their sphere outside of the local area.

For those who find it viable to attend student functions and events, as well as taking the time to get to know people outside of class time, take opportunities offered them to make new friends and connections across the campus community. Making connections with peers, faculty, and staff are what makes the strong community and some connections to be made at an event on campus could even expand your network beyond that of Missouri Southern.

Taking the time to follow events and activities hosted on campus for students, faculty, and staff can be a little overwhelming at times and even challenging for students living off campus. During a semester of transition and new social environment concerns, staying connected requires even more dedication. But continuing to be involved on campus and with fellow members of the campus community offers a richer and more enjoyable college experience and opportunities to become a vital part of an ever growing and diverse community of individuals.

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