Informal Discussion with Students & Student Affairs Leadership featuring a Q&A, Spring 2020 Progression, and Division Updates

On November 12, 2020, Dr. Gene Fitch, Jr., the Vice President for Student Affairs at The University of Texas at Dallas held a first-ever virtual Coffee Talk – a Teams Call where students could come-and-go to ask questions live to the Division of Student Affairs Leadership.

Below is a summary of some of the major points covered by Vice President Dr. Gene Fitch, Jr. and his team. Disclaimer: This article does not serve as an official update, but purely a debrief of this event or students to stay informed on what’s going on!

Coffee Talk Meeting Points/Summary

  • Vice President Dr. Fitch welcomes everyone to the Coffee Talk meeting and leaves off an opening saying that this is an event for students to come-and-go and informally have a discussion with Student Affairs Leadership / ask questions they may have!
  • Dr. Fitch: Updates from Student Affairs
    • Springbreak is confirmed for the Spring 2021 Semester and will be on the week of March 15th. There was some discussion on Reddit if that was changed or not, but is clarified to be on that week of March 15th.
    • Campus Enhancement Development Update: Rutford Project and construction has been delayed. University Administration planned to have the main street that divides campus to be constructed during these few months off, however is looking to be finished later than originally expected.
    • Student Affairs is working to try and have Homecoming Week in the Spring 2021 Semester to make up for it not happening in the Fall 2020 Semester.
    • University Recreation is working to hopefully have outdoor UREC Sport Tournaments in the Spring Semester.
    • Academic/University Administration are the ones who are able to go through with approved events, there’s a process in place to ensure social distance, safety measures, crowd limitation is all in place. Student Organizations & Groups are not allowed to hold in-person events yet, however, are working to hopefully allow them to go through a process to host events. The university must follow the Texas Governer’s Executive Orders.
  • Madison York, Student Editor in Chief of The Mercury: Has there been any update on Credit / No-Credit for this Semester?
    • Dr. Fitch: It is on the Academic Senate’s Agenda and something that can be declared by them. Not sure of the outcome yet, and know’s that Student Government (Sara Brennen & her team) has gathered the student voice behind this topic.
  • Eric Aaberg, Student President of Comet Life: Will there be any replacement of Weeks of Welcome in the Spring Semester?
    • Dr. Amanda Smith, Dean of Students: Most likely at this time to have Springapalooza to be virtual. Unlikely that the beginning of the Spring Semester to be in-person for large university events given social distance & safety measures.
  • Eric Aaberg: Will there be new tactics/efforts of holding virtual events to tackle the “burnout” students have of these virtual events on Microsoft Teams, etc.?
    • Dr. Fitch: Student Affairs is always looking at ways they can do events better. Like every, etc. this quick transition and shift was unexpected for all of us. Student Affairs recognizes that there has been an increase in stress in students given this new virtual environment.
    • Dr. Smith: Vendors that the university uses are now offering new tools for the university to be able to hold online events.
  • Dr. Fitch: Student Affairs is working with Athletics to have tournaments in-person in the Spring Semester, they must work within the Texas Governener’s orders and local laws in regards to large in-person events.
  • Madison York: Any discussion of the university to enforcing a COVID-19 Vaccine when it comes out?
    • Dr. Fitch: Too early for official plans as of yet on the university’s side.
  • Eric Aaberg: A question towards University Housing, will there/has there been any talk or discussion on changing the GPA requirement for the Peer Advisor Application? Say a passionate student did have a slip-up in their early Freshman semesters and do not meet the 3.0 Cummulative GPA Requirement for applying as a Peer Advisor yet have had a 3.5~ average semesterly GPA for the past two semesters, any consideration for them as they don’t want to miss out on the opportunity?
    • Matthew Grief, Associate Vice President for University Housing: Great question, will look into it.
  • Eric Aaberg: What is your advice for students to get involved? Given the virtual event environment, many student organizations/groups have struggled to keep retention for their online events and/or have given up hosting as frequent events. What are some ways you suggest students to get involved, etc.?
    • Dr. Fitch: Student Affairs Marketing is focusing a lot on social media to encourage students to get engaged, etc. Student Affairs is working on a new application for student life and engagement.
      • The app will feature a better user experience. All students are typically on their phones anyway, so they will be able to access student groups/departments/communication right in the app.
      • The current UTD Mobile app is more of a web-based app with bookmarks, this one will be a lot more of an actual app.
      • For example, Comet Life would be able to send out push notifications to students’ devices, etc. as long as the student has opted in to receive notifications from Comet Life. The same could be said for The Mercury and other student groups, as long as a student chooses to get the group’s notifications.
      • The app service is “Ready Education” and you can visit their website for more information/demos:
  • Eric Aaberg: Any plans for new merchandise in the UTD Bookstore, online, and in in-person local stores?
    • Jenni Huffenberger, Senior Director of Marketing & Student Media: Great question, this is typically led in partnership with Auxiliary Services and the University Bookstore.
      • COVID-19 has setback some plans for new merchandise, but Student Affairs definitely wants to do more merch and even TEMOC merch.
      • Merchandise partnerships and projects typically comes from the UT System level and the Brand Managers there.
      • Students can help this process a LOT by asking for it [specific merchandise, etc.]. Students can ask the UTD Bookstore people whenever there, the Target Staff whenever at those locations, etc. those suggestions always help the process.
  • Eric Aaberg: A cool way John Hopkins University did virtual events was having a campus-wide Minecraft Server & purchased Minecraft accounts for all students. Any idea or consideration for this?
    • Dr. Fitch: Email me those details and I can take a look.
  • Eric Aaberg: Any plans for having a student committee/team to help Student Affairs with projects such as the new app, new virtual initiatives, etc.?
    • Dr. Fitch: We haven’t had a student on our committees, but we will talk about the possibility of forming a student focus group!
  • Eric Aaberg: Any plans for a school spirit committee/taskforce for Student Affairs? A group to always be looking at how we can improve school spirit/traditions?
    • Dr. Fitch: Brianna Lemos & Student Development / Student Engagement Initiatives would be the people behind that.
    • Jenni Huffenberger: School Spirit isn’t something we can force students to do, but rather takes time. Students like yourself [Eric], are really what comes into place to spread the involvement of school spirit. Keep doing what you are doing.
  • Dr. Fitch: Final thanks to everyone, have a safe & happy holidays, and stay tuned for more updates from Student Affairs!

Updates from Student Affairs

You can follow @Official_Temoc on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter for updates and events from Student Affairs. Temoc is also now on TikTok for weekly video content!