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Thursday June 1st

Community Carolina online platform welcomes first-years to campus virtually

<p>Sophomore Gray Forrester (left) prepares to throw a towel into the crowd of first-year students at New Student Convocation on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016.&nbsp;</p>
Buy Photos Sophomore Gray Forrester (left) prepares to throw a towel into the crowd of first-year students at New Student Convocation on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016. Due to COVID-19, the Class of 2024 will experience the on-boarding process virtually.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and country-wide self-quarantines, the UNC Class of 2024 isn’t prepping for their transition into college in ways like those who came before them.

While the University has canceled on-campus admissions events through July 1, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions is attempting to provide those experiences for first-year students through its new social media platform, Community at Carolina.

“When COVID-19 happened, we knew that the in-person option wasn’t going to be possible, but we wanted to try and recapture as much of that connection and community as we could,” Sarah Derreberry, a senior assistant director for UNC Admissions, said. “So social media felt like the right place for not only us to be able to talk to those students, but for them to be able to talk to each other.”

LaShayla Simpson, an event planner for UNC Admissions, said the main goal of Community at Carolina is to give incoming students the ability to connect in a way that they can’t quite accomplish on other social media platforms.

“On Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, they can talk one-on-one and they can talk on threads,” Simpson said. “But within this community, they can create all kinds of engagements with one another if they want to, and then they can also engage with our campus.”

Simpson said the platform, which was launched April 8 as a website and app, provides different student organizations and UNC offices the chance to advertise interest meetings and Q&A sessions through Zoom. 

International students, she said, will be able to access recordings of these events so that they won’t have to deal with the time difference.

The platform gives students a space to post their own information, whether it’s sharing things about themselves, asking about potential roommates and suite mates or finding others interested in the areas they plan to study, Simpson said.

UNC admissions has also started offering daily virtual campus tours and information sessions.

Derreberry said while the future is uncertain, a lot of students are probably looking for community and connection. Simpson said that, since a lot of these incoming students aren’t getting to experience important milestones like high school graduation, they might feel lost in this transition.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we provide space for them to be seen and heard and acknowledging that, ‘Hey, this isn’t ideal,’” Simpson said. “This isn’t what any of us planned, but we’re all just trying to do our best and still stay connected in the ways that we can.”

Simpson and Derreberry said they’ve seen a lot of campus organizations and new students taking advantage of Community at Carolina, and have gotten a lot of positive feedback.

Jeffrey Fuchs, the director of University Bands, has been using the platform to offer interest sessions for both the band program and the dance team.

Fuchs said community is a big part of the music program, so when he was offered the opportunity to host sessions, he jumped at the chance to connect students to the program and to each other.

“In my 25 years here, it's by far the most effective way to get lots of kids at one time in one place,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs said he hopes that this platform can be extended beyond admitted students to also give prospective students the chance to learn more about what UNC has to offer.

“I think we've found out a lot during this time about how digital communication can benefit us,” Fuchs said. “I think that, if there's a lining in this cloud, it's that there’s a whole new platform for communication that can be really effective if we tap into it.” 

Though the platform was specifically created for the Class of 2024, Derreberry said UNC Admissions wants to preserve this platform and hopefully make it something students can use for years to come.

“Even though the welcome for our incoming students looks a little bit different this year, we know that they’re still going to be received and embraced by that community,” Derreberry siad. “That’s a really bright spot in these dark and confusing times.”

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