Embracing the Moment
On a brisk January night, helping to kick-start a new semester and a new calendar year, students were treated to the first ice skate on Naismith Green, as the center of the campus was transformed into an outdoor skating rink for students to enjoy. Not only did this first skate represent the start of the spring semester on Alden Street, it also was a symbol of a semester that would not only feature creative and unique student-activity programming, but would help maintain a level of hope and excitement as the campus community prepared for the next 15 weeks.
“Our goal was to embrace the moment, and find a way to get creative and give our students the positive experience they deserve,” said Director of Student Activities and Campus Union Annie Warchol. “Our student activities staff and Campus Activities Board, and many other clubs and organizations did an amazing job finding ways to provide programming that everyone could enjoy. The ice rink was open on weeknights and weekends when the weather allowed for some good skating, and we were able to provide ice skates for students who didn’t have their own. Overall, the students loved it.”
Warchol went on to add, “We really wanted to make the skating rink just a fun night out. We had food trucks on the Saturday nights, Harvest Table came out on select nights with free hot chocolate and snacks and it was another way to have some fun, get outside and enjoy the winter months, and celebrate having our campus community all together.”
Not only was ice skating a hit on the rink, but the campus community also was treated to a very unique curling tournament in the middle of February, when students participated in one of the world’s oldest team sports. Students formed teams, participated in some friendly competition, and, once again, showcased another Springfield College first. The ice skating and curling tournament displayed a winter wonderland theme.
“It’s about being creative, and the Campus Activities Board and the Dance Marathon Club [members] researched some curling competition options allowing play even without the official curling stones. We found a way to use plastic water jugs filled with colored water to represent different teams,” explained Warchol. “Overall, it was a lot of fun and another way to embrace the moment.”
None of these activities would have been made possible if it wasn’t for the hard work of the Facilities Management staff, who helped turn Naismith Green into Naismith Rink.
“The help, hard work, and dedication of Tom Verrico, the assistant director in campus recreation for intramurals and club sports, and the facility staff in charge of the task of maintaining the ice rink’s condition daily, including Paul DeMaria, Connie Venezia, and Chris Gaumond, really made this all possible,” Warchol said.
East Campus: A Winter Paradise
The outdoor skating paradise was just one example of students taking advantage of the resources the shores of Lake Massasoit offer during the winter months. Student groups also utilized the more than 50 acres at the Springfield College East Campus to take part in cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing activities. Whether sports teams getting together for some safe team-bonding exercises, or individuals looking to get away from the computer screen for a while, individuals explored the winter wonderland options at East Campus.
“We have offered winter activities for many years at East Campus but, this year, it became especially important to use our space and make fun winter activities accessible for our students,” said Director of East Campus and Outdoor Programs Ben Taylor ’99, G’15. “We kept the activities very safe, and we had instructors leading the students through both the cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing opportunities.”
He continued, “We had a nice snowfall during those winter months, and it made for some very enjoyable cross-country skiing trails, especially on weekend days when students were looking for activities. It was important getting them outdoors where everything is a little safer when dealing with the pandemic hurdles.”
Campus Activities Board
It is widely expressed that emulation is the sincerest form of flattery. That recently was the case for members of the Office of Student Activities and the student-led Campus Activities Board.
Naismith Green represented the perfect example of the out-of-the-box thinking on display on campus all year. Before the Naismith Rink was built, Naismith Green housed a huge tent that provided space for fall campus activities. How do you follow up on these? Create a beach area that featured volleyball and Adirondack chairs to lounge in as the weather warmed into the spring, of course.
“Other colleges were calling us to see how we were able to have such a good turnout at our events and how we were able to get individuals to participate in our programming,” said Warchol. “We were challenged to be creative, and that was a focus during the year, for sure.”
Other activities included a blend of virtual events, as well as a good number of in-person activities that were closely monitored to ensure everyone was following all safety guidelines. Each Saturday evening, food trucks brought to campus offered students a variety of options to eat and enjoy. During the week, there were live music events outside on the Naismith Green. On the weekends, students enjoyed fun offerings like a miniature golf course, spike ball competitions, cornhole tournaments, capture-the-flag scavenger hunts, and a variety of art projects.
“The students really appreciated that there was an emphasis by the College in providing fun activities for all to enjoy this year.”Irene Rotondo, Class of 2022
There was plenty of virtual programming during the year that included virtual bingo and virtual trivia. Outdoor programming like the welcome back week fireworks light show displayed on an exterior wall of the Flynn Campus Union building helped provide a nice balance for the students on the campus.
“The students really appreciated that there was an emphasis by the College in providing fun activities for all to enjoy this year,” said communications/sports journalism major Irene Rotondo, Class of 2022, who helped provide a weekly preview video of campus activities for the students to stay informed. “Everyone recognized students would be spending more time on campus, and finding ways to keep everyone occupied during the school year was important. Overall, there was a lot to do this year, and it was fun to capture the exciting programming each week.”
Graduate Student Organization Assists with Wellness Wednesdays
Representatives of the Graduate Student Organization (GSO), led by club president James Kaishian, G’19, PhD Class of 2021, made sure students had some options during this year’s Wellness Wednesdays. The Wellness Wednesdays were incorporated into the academic schedule this past year as a way to substitute the regular spring break week, which was temporarily eliminated. During multiple Wednesdays set aside during the spring semester, no classes were scheduled for faculty and students, as they were encouraged to take part in self-care activities as a way to re-charge from their classwork.
GSO members treated the campus community to some delicious food options from multiple food trucks that offered freshly baked cookies, and make-your-own flavored snow cones as the weather warmed up. Free puzzles and decks of playing cards also were made available.
“Obviously, everyone needed a break at times, and we wanted to do our part as graduate students to make sure we helped encourage everyone to make it through the semester safely,” said Kaishian. “Supporting each other is so important, and that was our goal in helping out.”
Peer to Peer Recognition Program
During the academic year, a collection of posters showcasing exciting upcoming events hang in the windows of The Table @ Cheney Hall, but during the spring semester, posters featuring the faces of some unsung campus heroes dominated that space.
Led by the Office of Student Activities, students, faculty, and staff could nominate student heroes for recognition of their efforts in going above and beyond in support, encouragement, and inspiration of their peers.
“It was a really nice honor to be recognized, and it really uplifted everyone seeing the smiling faces in the windows of Cheney,” said student Max Pape, Class of 2022, who was one of the original six students recognized. “To be able to have this platform where fellow students can express support, and make sure we are all doing ok during these challenging times, this program really helped keep students moving forward and feeling good about battling through the semester.”
Finding Creative Ways to Serve Others
Following a fall semester that didn’t allow for many in-person service project opportunities, members of the Center for Service and Leadership and the student-led Humanics in Action Club provided students with the opportunity to live our Humanics philosophy through Sip and Serve events.
Each Sunday evening throughout the spring semester, students gathered in the Campus Union Café to take part in service projects and activities that benefitted multiple organizations in the surrounding community, while also enjoying some hot chocolate and root beer floats provided by Harvest Table.
One of the highlights from the Sip and Serve program was the delivery of more than 200 fire safety kits to Rebecca M. Johnson Elementary School, and 100 incentive kits each to the Elias Brookings Elementary School and William N. DeBerry Elementary School in Springfield.
The fire safety kits included: washcloths, emergency whistles, water bottles, granola bars, a face mask, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Other donated items came from the Springfield Fire Department and included a fire hat and a fire safety booklet. The intention behind the fire safety kits was that, in an emergency, the kids could grab the bag and have emergency supplies.
The incentive kits included an activity book, notebook, crayons, “slime,” do-it-yourself slap bracelets, notes with positive messages, and erasers.
Center for Service and Leadership Assistant Director Nicole Coakley and therapeutic recreation major Margaux Atkins, Class of 2022, helped lead the Sip and Serve events.
“Students kept asking for ways to provide service to others despite the limitations of in-person opportunities due to the pandemic,” said Atkins. “Humanics is what we are all about at Springfield College, and we had to find ways to provide service opportunities, and find a day and time that would work well to allow students to take part in these opportunities. We identified Sunday nights as a good time, and the turnout was incredible. Everyone really came out and supported the Sip and Serve events, and I think it really provided an opportunity of community, and helped everyone find some joy in helping others.”
The Humanics in Action Club also hosted the Kindness Campaign during the month of February, leading random acts of kindness on the campus, as well as events for making self-care packages that were delivered to the YWCA and Friends of the Homeless for those in need.
During the holiday months, the Office of Spiritual Life staff led its annual adopt-a-family program to help community families. Members of the College community worked together to make sure families from the Teen Living Program received special gifts this holiday season. The Teen Living Program, run by Springfield-based Open Pantry Community Services, is a residential program for teenage mothers and their children who require a safe place to live.
“[The Teen Living Program] is one of the most heart-warming initiatives I’ve been involved in at Springfield College,”Jonathan Perlow,
“This is one of the most heart-warming initiatives I’ve been involved in at Springfield College,” said graduate student Jonathan Perlow, who has worked for several years with Director of Spiritual Life David McMahon in leading this initiative. “We wanted to make sure we were able to do this program in a safe manner this year, both for the individuals at the Teen Living Program, and the individuals at the College.”
The biggest alteration to this year’s program was that all purchased gift donations were sent directly to the Teen Living Program, instead of gifts being collected, organized, and wrapped at the College.
“It was so heart-warming to see all of the gifts arrive at our office on a daily basis, and it really meant so much to all of the families,” said Teen Living Program Director Nicole Lussier, who earned her Master of Social Work degree from Springfield College in 2000. “Every day I felt like I was going to cry just looking at all of the gifts. It really does display that there are so many great people in our community and at Springfield College.”
Lussier went on to add, “The impact this has on our families is so special. Many families in our program have never had the opportunity to receive gifts during the holidays, and being a part of this adopt-a-family program really reminds us all why we are all here, and it emphasizes why helping others is so very important.”
For more than 10 years, the College and the Teen Living Program communities have collaborated in making the adopt-a-family program an annual part of the holiday season. It’s a partnership that just keeps stronger each year, and is a natural fit for our Humanics philosophy.
“Having this opportunity to see the best of our campus community, and see everyone rise up to really want to help others in the neighboring community is always special,” added Perlow. “To be able to support Nicole and all the great programming she leads, it is very rewarding. This year especially, so many people had to adapt and come together to make this happen, and that’s really the endearing message I take away from this year’s program.”
The Teen Living Program caters to the concerns of poverty, homelessness, and empowering people, in particular, women. It is the goal of Spiritual Life, in conjunction with the Springfield College community, to assist the families at the Teen Living Program in having a special holiday during their challenging time.
The strength of Springfield College has been and will always be highlighted in the mission of this historic institution, educating students in spirt, mind, and body, for leadership and service to others. During the past year, the spirit of community has allowed for a great showcase of support throughout the campus, demonstrating the tremendous resilience on Alden Street.