Canfield BHP Freshmen Value Community in a Virtual Environment

As students approach what for many will be the third or fourth month of online schooling, it is understandably difficult to have a positive outlook on the rest of the semester. Every undergraduate is missing out on traditionally-experienced sports games, concerts, and even lunch dates. 

The situation is arguably even more difficult for college freshmen, who already were forced to miss out on milestones like high school prom and graduation. While college presented an opportunity to make things right after a botched senior year of high school, many hopes were dashed when the majority of UT classes went online. Even so, freshmen students in the Canfield Business Honors continue to thrive, whether it be through applying and getting into (virtually-run) student organizations, taking advantage of peer mentor groups, or connecting with professors and administration. 

Sidd Shende, a Canfield BHP freshmen currently working from his home in Seattle, Washington, explains that, although he’s working from an entirely different time zone, the resources and community UT and Canfield BHP provide make online schooling the best it can be. 

“I like online schooling, especially given that I’m in Seattle. Honestly, I really like the way Canvas is set up with the whole to-do list and the way the assignments are (formatted),” he said. “I’m also really experiencing the whole community and I feel like a lot of (Canfield BHP) people I’m talking to are academically driven, but at the same time like-minded and ambitious, so I really connect with them.”

Other students feel similarly, especially after experiencing the Canfield BHP tradition of Leadership Kickoff. Jenna Chen, a freshman currently attending classes from her home in Plano, Texas, said she appreciated the effort administration and upperclassmen put into the event, referencing a virtual escape room that was one aspect of Leadership Kickoff.

“Even though we’re all physically separated, the amount of work they put into making virtual connections, like the escape room we did during Kickoff, is incredible. It was a really neat way to communicate and get to know our peers and how we all work in a team setting,” Jenna said. 

Jenna also said the efforts of her Canfield BHP peer mentor have improved her college experience. 

“I love my peer mentor. I think she’s amazing and she’s just so helpful in creating a very inclusive environment,” Jenna said. “One of my favorite things that we do in (Canfield) BHP is the thirty-minute conversations I have with my peer mentor and group after our BA101 class. Just being able to talk to my mentor and the people in it is about our thoughts gives it a real community vibe, even though I’m at home.”

While Jenna feels the community vibe of Canfield BHP from Plano, Sakshee Jain, another Canfield BHP freshman, is feeling it in Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston. Sakshee said that Houston-based Canfield BHP students have created a group message together and often set up small, in-person hangouts to meet other students in the program.

“What I’ve heard from other people is that for freshmen fall is more about community building than anything else and I think (Canfield) BHP has done their best to cultivate that,” she said. “All the Houston kids staying at home met yesterday at George Bush Park. We’re all in the same boat and feel like we’re trying to meet out as much as we can in order to get to know each other.

While Sidd, Jenna, and Sakshee are located in cities outside of Austin, some Canfield BHP freshmen have made the choice to move to campus despite the coronavirus pandemic. Ashley Lee said she decided to stay in the dorms to try and have the most traditional freshman experience possible given the situation.

“I’m a first-generation college student and UT gave me a scholarship, so I thought staying in the dorms would be making the best of a bad situation,” Ashley said. “(The experience) depends on the type of person you are. The small friend group that I’ve created decided to stick with ourselves only and we have gotten tested, so I feel safe (from coronavirus) and I’ve been able to enjoy the campus. It’s not perfect, but I’m having a fun time.”

All in all, the online situation isn’t a great one for freshmen students, whether they’re in Seattle, Plano, Katy, or Austin. Canfield Business Honors students have done their best to make the best of it through resources, support, and community provided to them. 

“Being in (Canfield) BHP has helped me be more connected with my peers and connected with the university than I ever would’ve expected,” Sidd said, “I definitely see how this community has risen to the occasion during this time of coronavirus.”


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