How Active Minds’ Chapter Presidents are Preparing for a “Fall Like No Other”

Active Minds Chapters Team
Active Minds Chapters Team

We all know this fall is like no other. While many schools have shared their intentions for ongoing remote work, many others are planning to bring students back into a shared space as the Covid-19 vaccine gains adoption. Students are facing unusual challenges, and it’s crucial now more than ever to utilize the resources available to transition from online learning back to an in-person setting.

To help prepare for these challenges, we spoke with Mia, Nathan, and Kaylee, three Active Minds Chapter Presidents from across the country about their plans as leaders to support their chapters when they return to school this fall.

We hope other leaders and chapter members will find their insights useful as we prepare for another successful year of Active Minds:

Q: What types of events is your chapter planning on doing this fall?

Mia: Every semester, we do a “paint and scoop ”- an instructed painting course with ice cream for dessert while you paint! I am an Art Therapy major, so I lead the class. We are also helping with a Self-Care Fair in partnership with our student government, where we will have a booth with a self-care activity.

Nathan: For now, we’re planning in-person meetings, but things are looking a bit uncertain with the spread of the Delta Variant. We’re hoping to reserve a classroom for the semester with social distancing in place. Most of our significant events are dependent on COVID restrictions.

Kaylee: We’re still in the process of figuring out our hybrid event/meeting schedule. Hopefully, our first meeting will be an in-person get-to-know-you event during the second week of school. We have plans for suicide awareness month events, stress less week, and our “coping with humor” event- an annual event for a student who passed away, which will be online this year.

Q: How are you planning to host your Active Minds meetings?

Mia: I surveyed the executive board to see who is comfortable with meeting in person. We decided after that survey we are going to do in-person eboard meetings and will host general body meetings outside while the weather is still warmer. We plan to host our general body meetings at “Berury Beach,” which is not an actual beach but rather a green space in the center of campus where students like to sit out in the sun.

Kaylee: Our weekly meetings will hopefully be mostly in person, with some scattered online. We’ll be rotating the meeting time to accommodate other students’ schedules and have a backup plan to meet online if our campus shuts down again.

Q: How are you planning on making your chapter members feel safe in light of COVID-19 when attending chapter meetings and events?

Mia: In addition to hosting meetings at Berury Beach, we will require people to wear masks. We plan to ask student activities for money to fund masks and hand sanitizers for our meetings and events.

Nathan: Fortunately, UMD is very COVID compliant, and student activities are supported by those guidelines. Our chapter hopes to hold events outside as much as possible while revamping our online presence to support virtual gatherings. UMD has the country’s largest campus mall [McKeldin Mall], where they could easily host a meeting. We’re also discussing holding a meeting at the University’s rope course and climbing wall. This would be a great way to increase social engagement and build relationships.

Kaylee: Like other campuses, UP is requiring that people are socially distanced and masked at all gatherings. Our chapter wants to make sure that immunocompromised students feel safe and comfortable. Some chapter leaders are immunocompromised, so it’s safe to assume more people are as well (to err on the side of caution). We hope to host events outside as much as possible on UP’s Bluff/Overlook.

Q: Is your chapter doing anything to address mental health concerns that may arise as a result of coming back to campus in person?

Mia: Right now, our Active Minds chapter is not focused on mental illness but rather mental wellness; therefore, we will try to talk about proactive ways to take care of your mental health, but we have not planned specifics yet.

Kaylee: Yes, we’re starting with a casual event to help students get to know each other; our second event will be a “Back to School During COVID” event focused on transitioning to in-person class (the “new normal”). We’ll also be partnering with our wellness/health promotions office to invite counseling center staff to speak at these events. At the end of every semester, our chapter also sends self-care care packages to speakers, faculty, and other community members who partnered with us for events. Our chapter can’t directly compensate these people, so we send out care packages instead.

Q: Is your chapter doing anything to integrate and welcome the “red shirt” freshmen (sophomores entering their first year on campus)?

Mia: We do not want to isolate anyone by focusing on a specific group, but we will be focusing heavily on the retention of members to help with socializing, making connections, and forming relationships.

Nathan: Our chapter is planning to participate in Active Minds Spirit Week in October. In addition to regular events, we want to continue to spread information about Active Minds resources to our larger campus community by sending out messages of support to our member listserv and on social media. I’m planning to lead a V-A-R workshop at the beginning of the year, so members are prepared to use the skill to support each other throughout the semester.

Kaylee: The University of Portland has preexisting orientations for freshmen and sophomores to reintroduce them to campus, at which we have been invited to speak. UP Active Minds was invited to the annual wellness fair to speak and table. We hope to reach first and second-year students during this tabling event and future ones.

Q: What advice would you give to other chapter leaders on this topic?

Mia: I have been doing a lot on the backend to prepare for this semester. Think through logistics ahead of time and bounce your ideas off others because your chapter operations will not be the same as they were back in 2019.

Nathan: Just keep a smile on your face and keep on moving. Things will get tougher before they get better, and anything we can to help each other as students is so important right now.

Kaylee: The biggest piece of advice I’ve been sharing with my leadership team is to continue to focus on an emphasis on mental health support despite ‘returning to normal’. We can support others by reinforcing this.

If you are looking for additional resources and support for you or your chapter as you begin a new year, please check out our Life at Your Pace Hub and specifically for chapters, our Chapter Hub. Students with additional questions or needs are also invited to attend Office Hours with Active Minds staff. The Active Minds team is always here to support you, and we can’t wait to see where this year takes you!