When international students make their way to Stillwater to attend Oklahoma State University, there are many services and groups that are present on campus to provide outlets and support. One such campus organization is the OSU Family Resource Center, which provides housing and programs for students and for children if those students are parents.
The FRC is located at 719 N. Walnut St. near West Apartments, and provides housing and services through Family and Graduate Student Housing. When OSU announced during the spring semester that it would be finishing classes online, campus was shut down and most students living on campus had to vacate. The students living in the FGSH were able to stay in their campus apartments, which meant a change to how the FRC offered its programs once gathering in-person was not an option due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assistant Residential Community Educator Bailey Winters said the FRC serves as a resource and education hub for all families who live on campus. She said programs are offered for all ages of kids as well as programs for adults who are living on campus.
“Normally, we have all kinds of classes and programs that happen, so we have programs for children 0-18 who live on campus, and we have programs and classes for adults,” Winters said. “The adult classes are typically English classes, art classes and cooking classes. More so classes that are hobby oriented, and a lot of teaching English as a second language. Most of the programs for kids are after school programs, so every day after school, the kids would get off the bus and we usually have anywhere from 50-70 kids and we just do fun and educational activities and then their parents can come pick them up at 5 p.m. So those kids spend two hours every day with us after school.”
The main goal of the FRC is to help build a sense of community for families who live on campus. With around 70 percent of the students in the FGSH being international students, Winters said it was extremely important to make sure programs were still offered to the families. With a full slate of programs and activities planned, Winters said those plans were shelved in one afternoon.
“We heard over and over again people saying the FRC was their home away from home,” Winters said. “They said a lot of the FRC was like their family, because a lot of our residents are not in their home country. We knew we were a safe space for the residents, and particularly those who are really far away from home and away from family. We knew that we had to 100 percent continue programming in some capacity. We knew that our residents depended on this sense of community. I think it was important for all of us during those first few weeks because it was so lonely.”
Trying to make sure the programs continued featured a few challenges that have become all to familiar around the country with many events and programs being moved online. Winters said Zoom had to be figured out before being utilized, as well as other technical challenges just to get the programs off the ground.
“It was definitely challenging. We’re so used to operating in-person and face-to-face, we love seeing our students and our kids,” Winters said. “Our main goal is to build community and relationships, and so it was like, ‘How do we do that if we can’t meet in person?’ ‘How do we still encourage people meeting one another and be welcoming and engaging?’ But I think, practically, everything happened so fast, and so we were moving forward with after school programs, and we had fun events planned, and in one afternoon all our plans changed. I think one of the biggest challenges was just having to come up with moving all our programs and classes online in the matter of a week or so.”
With things moved online, Winters said not every program was able to be provided, but that the FRC was still able to cater to every age group and demographic that had been previously served. As things stand right now, OSU is planning to hold in-person classes for the fall semester. Winters said the FRC will follow what the university’s policy dictates, but staff is keeping prepared to potentially need to offer its programs and services through other means.
“We are just following the leadership and guidance of OSU and things are changing day by day,” Winters said. “I think here our team is trying to be optimistic in hopes that we’ll be able to have some type of in-person programming.
“But we’re also going to follow the policy and guidelines that OSU lays out, so we are planning on something in-person, and if that doesn’t work out, we’ve gotten our online stuff figured out and it’s been smoothed out over the course of the last few months, so we could move forward with that, as well. So we’re just playing it by ear in hopes that we could return to some type of in-person activities, but if that doesn’t work, we’re definitely ready to go online.”
The Family Resource Center will hold training/webinars on how to conduct programming, events and children’s camps online. Anyone interested in participating can find out more information by emailing Bailey Winters at email@example.com.