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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Community on Ice

If you strolled across campus today, you would likely do a double take when approaching Stuart Field. Per usual, students might be competing on the field — but in an ice rink.

Up and running since early February, the rink will remain a safe option for pandemic-weary students to engage with each other through mid-March. 

“The rink is composed of synthetic ice, so it can withstand warmer temperatures,” said Bill Fischer, vice president for Student Development. “And it certainly makes for less maintenance.” 

Students have been flocking to the 4,300 square foot rink since its inception to engage in a number of activities. In the first three weeks alone, 337 students attended open or group skates, 184 students competed in human curling matches and 278 students played broomball. Online sign-ups, capacity limits and monitored mask wearing ensure COVID-19 compliance. And access and skate rentals are free for students. 

So, how did this popular — and unprecedented — initiative come to fruition? It all started with an online student survey conducted by UD’s Student Government Association in November 2020. 

The survey inquired about students’ fall experiences on campus. Of the 1,194 students who responded, 53% said that they “Often” or “Very Often” struggled with mental health during a typical week in the fall semester. 

Considering all that the semester — and the spring semester before — entailed, this statistic is not surprising. “Student health and well-being is a top concern for colleges and universities across the country,” said Fischer. 

With colder weather limiting outdoor activities, the worry was that students’ mental health would suffer even more. So, the University acted quickly to address the need, forming a working group focused on engaging students mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. The Spring 2021 Student Activities Planning Group took shape and got to work.

Activities for Every Student

The group’s faculty, staff and student representatives proposed a wide range of new, COVID-compliant in-person and virtual activities, including the ice rink, to boost student mental health.

University leadership gave the go-ahead to almost every activity on the list, including a Winter Wonderland one-day festival and a food truck rally, both of which recently occurred and attracted hundreds of students. Numerous other activities are in the works, such as online gaming competitions, Flyer Feud and Jeopardy on Flyer TV, indoor golf, bowling tournaments, pickleball tournaments, cooking competitions, and spikeball leagues.

“We want to make sure all community members feel like they have an activity they can do. Not everyone wants to be outside on the ice rink,” said group member Drew Moyer ’22, who also serves in several student leadership roles on campus. 

Only With Donor Support

Such an extensive list of activities comes with a price tag. “For the ice rink alone, we’re looking at anywhere between $60,000 to $70,000 that we typically don’t have in our budget,” said Fischer. “The University is contributing, and we are also tapping into donor gifts to the Student Development Fund for Excellence. We think utilizing these gifts is very beneficial because they’re going to a very good cause.”

Moyer emphasized the impact these donors are having on students, particularly younger ones. “College is a huge change for them and going through that during a global pandemic has been difficult. These donations are helping us keep them engaged and safe — and, beyond that, helping them understand what UD is and what community means.”

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