Students are more engaged than expected post COVID


Viterbo student Will Handrick holds a rabbit at the Franny Fest petting zoo.

Jessica Schneider, Campus Life Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on campus events for the past two years. Over the last couple of semesters, Viterbo has been opening back up and giving students more opportunities for fun.  

One could assume that students would be hesitant to engage in activities—perhaps lulled into a new sense of normalcy in staying inside, secluded after the isolation of the pandemic. However, reality is quite the opposite. Paul Butrymowicz, the new Student Engagement Coordinator, reports that they’ve seen “increased attendance at in-person events” and “greater engagement” across the board.  

Despite student interest, the threat of COVID hasn’t gone away. La Crosse averages 20 new cases per day according to state and local health agencies. However, with new boosters being made available and the number of cases declining, many are excited to get back into the world again. Butrymowicz believes that students are “anxious to be involved in in-person events.” He says, “we can’t discount that students are looking for these experiences too.” He goes on to point out that many incoming students missed out on important High School events, like their senior prom, due to COVID.  

The uptick in student involvement could also be due to the Engagement Department’s marketing strategy. They aim to utilize as many platforms as they can, putting information out on the Viterbo app and all the most popular social media sites. They also send information in emails and hang posters across campus, so details pertaining to upcoming events are never too far out of reach for students. 

It helps that events being planned cater to student needs and interests. Franny Fest, which took place on Oct. 4, featured a petting zoo that proved to be very popular amongst attendees. There was a large pen of barnyard animals, a smaller pen with several rabbits, and a tub of baby chicks for anyone to pet. From the bunny enclosure, you could hear the students chiming, “This is so great,” “This is exactly what I needed,” and “I’m so happy I’m literally going to cry.” One student, with a black and white rabbit nuzzled in their arms, even went on record, saying “Whoever thought of this deserves a raise.”  

There has been an increase in attendance at campus events, but some students don’t feel motivated to participate “Generally,” Butrymowicz says, “what we’ve seen is that students come to events in groups.” If you’re concerned about attending an event, grab some friends to go with. If you’re unsure about what events may be coming up, keep an eye on your surroundings—TV screens, social media feeds, emails, and Viterbo app notifications—for alerts about upcoming events. 

For those still nervous about stepping out of their comfort zone, Butrymowicz says, “Just try something, perhaps, you haven’t done in your lifetime because you never know, it may be something that really resonates with you.” Perhaps you didn’t know you enjoyed holding bunny rabbits, but after Franny Fest you’re Googling what it would take to have one as a pet. You’d never know if you didn’t put yourself out there and attend that Viterbo event.  

“We have a good schedule of events, and I think that’s only going to get better and more refined in the future,” Butrymowicz says. Student Engagement staff are learning from every event, striving to make more opportunities for students to get involved and have a good time.  

Butrymowicz feels that it’s important for college students to seize these opportunities now because, as he says, “You’ll only have this experience, really, once in your life. Make the most of it.”