By Collin Atwood
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at anybody and everyone since its original outbreak. No matter the occupation or situation, the virus has found a way to make life just a little bit harder.
Annie Warchol, Director of Student Activities and Campus Union at Springfield College, had a huge obstacle to overcome when COVID-19 forced Springfield College to put limitations and restrictions on most of the campus activities.
While students were worrying about how to enjoy their school year during a pandemic, Warchol was doing everything in her power to make sure it would be a year to remember. Thankfully for us, Warchol is well adapted to facing challenges as she has been since she was hired in 2008.
When Warchol was hired she started off as the Assistant Director of Student Activities and she started making improvements to the department right away. Due to the lack of events that were actually happening each semester, only five or six kids would show up to an event on a Saturday night.
“At that time the office had only done, which was shocking to me, five events a semester,” Warchol said.
In her first semester here, the college went from five events to 25 events a semester. While that is a great improvement, it wasn’t the biggest obstacle. The real problem was getting students to attend these events rather than partying all weekend.
Part of her strategy was to find respected students on campus and get them to come out to the events she was organizing. Once they were there, Warchol had to make sure that the event was entertaining enough to get them to come back.
“In order for anything to be successful, in terms of marketing and programming, you have to do the things that students actually want to do,” Warchol said.
Reaching out to students and attending conferences and meetings was how Warchol was able to keep up with the trends that college students were interested in.
One event that really showed the potential for how large campus activities could get was bingo night. “I brought bingo here… That was my first big event, we had like 100 people there,” Warchol said.
Bingo on campus is still a favorite for many students to this day.
After she was able to completely turn the department around as the assistant, she was then promoted to director in 2014, but the transition was anything but smooth. Her predecessor had left the job before Warchol was promoted so she was short on staff.
“I was doing three office jobs at the time I was applying for the position… It was challenging in the sense of not having enough resources,” Warchol said. She relied on herself and graduate students to maintain satisfactory standards for the students until she was able to hire help.
The adversity Warchol faced early on in her career at Springfield College doesn’t compare to the troubles that came along with COVID-19.
“I was really shocked by the lack of guidance that was provided for people in my position.”
One of the hardest parts of the first couple of semesters with COVID for Warchol was the capacity limits. As a result of this, Warchol was forced to implement pre-registration for events and activities.
“We would do the same event a couple of times so people could enjoy it, but we would be capped by that capacity number,” Warchol said.
The pandemic also caused some campus-famous events to be held virtually. Sti-Yu-Ka, family weekend and bingo were all held online last school year which doesn’t exactly draw students in, but Warchol’s efforts made the pandemic year better than most expected.
Now that things are finally inching their way towards normal, Warchol and the Student Activities office can get back to hosting in-person events without capacity limits.
The few events that have happened so far this year have been a huge hit.
“I’ve been here 13 years now and this New Student Orientation program this year was the greatest energy I have ever been a part of,” Warchol said.
Students are excited to get back to a closer version of normal.
This is just the very beginning of the academic year and the Student Activities staff has much more planned for the future. Warchol brought something new to the campus about a decade ago and plans on rebooting it this year.
“Something that my office is actually putting together is called an I Lead Series,” she said.
She wants to revive this series because of the lack of leadership retreats and conferences that were able to happen last year. This series will include workshops for anyone who is trying to work on their leadership skills. The workshops will venture out to many topics such as social justice, personal growth, communication styles and much more.
Activities that will be returning this year include family weekend, Big E trips and the ice skating rink. To stay up to date with the Student Activities Office and when events will be happening follow their Instagram account: @scactivities.