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MAP’s Breakfast Club inspires virtual community, creates connections for students

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: October 13, 2020 10:00 a.m.

Breakfast Club goes virtual: MAP event creates community, connection, and support for students.
Breakfast Club goes virtual: MAP event creates community, connection, and support for students. Photo: Breakfast Club by Bing is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

While there’s likely more toast and peanut butter being consumed than eggs benedict, it’s the semblance of socializing and normalcy that really nourishes those who participate in the University of Regina’s new-look Breakfast Club. Creating a sense of community, connection, and support lies at the heart of this regular, virtual get together.  

Although the pandemic may have put larger, community-based in-person events on hold, the Faculty of Media, Art and Performance (MAP) at the University of Regina is finding ways to rejuvenate this social tradition by creating a virtual community - over breakfast.

“We started the MAP Breakfast as an in-person gathering about two years ago,” explains Dr. Rae Staseson, Dean of MAP, and creator of the Breakfast Club. “Twice a semester, we’d invite our students to a hot breakfast on campus in the morning, from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. We’d always have visitors attend from Counselling Services, the Student Success Office, and the Archer Library, as well as University senior administration.”  

On average, the event would attract about 30 students and was very popular in the winter. Settling into the Fall season, Staseson began looking at ways to bring more light and a sense of community to Saskatchewan’s increasingly dark mornings.

“I thought, let’s restart the Breakfast Club,” says Staseson. “We didn’t know where the experience would go in a virtual setting, but we’re really trying to stay connected with our students, to hear from them and support them, and to let them know about Counselling Services and the things they can do to feel less anxious.”

MAP held its first virtual Breakfast Club on September 30 and focused on developing a program for attendees that was fun, interactive, informative, and supportive. Using computer-based games, the event provided students with a chance to win prizes as well.

“The computer platform we used had a Wheel of Fortune game,” says Staseson. “We did two different draws for prizes including a gift card from Tim Horton’s and a MAP hoodie. As the number of participants in the Club grows, we’re looking at increasing the size of the prizes as well.”

Fifteen students, five faculty, and two recent graduates attended the event, which gave students a chance to get to know their professors and Dean’s team, and connect with their peers who have recently entered the workforce.

To break the ice and encourage conversation, MAP used online activities that attendees could participate in anonymously via their phones, which also helped the organizers gauge how everyone was feeling.

10-131.jpg
Club uses online activities, interaction, and games
to support and connect with students this
Fall semester. Credit: Screenshot, MAP

“We wound up providing a lot of emotional support,” explains Staseson. “This is a hard time for students and they really want to talk. This type of event lets our students know that we support them. And that we, too, are feeling anxious, tired or scared - it’s not uncommon.”

The event provides an important connection between students and their peers, creating a safe space for students to talk about their struggles during the pandemic and the challenges they face studying remotely.

“I felt that the meeting was a huge part of staying connected at a distance,” says Yanique Henry, a first-year student in Visual Arts. “With how the world has changed, it is vital to adjust and utilize alternative methods of reaching one another. This virtual meeting is a prime example of how resilient we can become if we put in the effort.”

Staseson advises that without the safe, collegial space created by events like the Breakfast Club, faculty and instructors may not know if their students are struggling.  

“That’s why these events are important,” says Staseson. “You can respond very swiftly to help your students.”

The Breakfast Club was a great experience for members of the Dean’s team as well.

“It was a really great opportunity to connect with students right now,” says Janelle Schwartz, Academic Program Coordinator in the Faculty of MAP. “We miss chatting with them as much as they miss the regular school experience as well. It was nice to meet with a couple of our recent alums who are doing well with their careers in this difficult time, too.”

As a key part of the event, Schwartz invited two recent graduates to talk about their experiences in MAP’s professional placement program and their successful transition to the workplace.

“Listening to Jaecy Bells and James Hsieh talk about their professional placements was fantastic,” says Staseson. “You could see the students as they were listening to them going, ‘this is cool’. They’re both gainfully employed and were able to introduce our students to what we do in the program and point the students in the right direction.”

James Hsieh BA’20 is now working as the Assistant Manager, Residence Life (Student Affairs) at the U of R with a focus on creative design, marketing, and recruitment. Hsieh credits MAP’s professional placement program for opening many career doors, helping him explore career opportunities and build incredible connections.

“I appreciate the Faculty of MAP reaching out to their students regularly and providing opportunities for connection and transparent communication,” says Hsieh. “Events such as the Breakfast Club make it feel like the faculty and staff genuinely care about their students’ well-being and academic success. This unique university experience is valuable during this difficult time.”

Looking ahead, MAP plans to hold Breakfast Club meetings two or three times a semester.

“If we could get 30 students to be part of the Breakfast Club that would be fantastic,” says Staseson. “We’ve also been hosting student town halls since May, but there’s something novel about doing this type of event in the morning. Some people were drinking tea or coffee. Some people were eating toast. Everyone’s cats were coming in and out of the screens. We’re a small faculty, but being able to touch base with our students through this Club is a really nice thing to do for our student community.”

For more information on the MAP Breakfast Club, contact media.art.performance@uregina.ca. The next Breakfast Club meeting is: Tuesday, October 27, 8:30 a.m.