Isabella Hudziak, Special Assignments Reporter
Promptly at 1 p.m. on March 21, Utica College student leaders turned on their Zoom cameras for Dance Floor Theory Leadership Training. More than 15 students attended, representing the Student Government Association, Literature Society, Active Minds and several more campus organizations.
The three-hour Zoom call was led by nationally recognized public speaker Tom Krieglstein. Krieglstein founded Swift Kick, a company that promotes leadership workshops, in 2004. Over the years, he has worked as a TEDx speaker, trained leaders of famous companies such as Coca Cola and has authored the book “First-Year Student To First-Year Success.”
As student leaders filtered into the call, accompanied by Assistant Director for College Engagement Jason Francey and Assistant Director for Leadership Development Bethany VanBenschoten, Krieglstein had upbeat music playing. He greeted each member by name to establish the atmosphere of the event.
Crystal Santiago attended, and was surprised by how engaging it was for students. By adding music to the background, and showing appreciation for the members is just a few things that stuck out to her. Santiago is a dual-major senior in psychology child-life and childhood and special education, and is involved in several organizations on campus.
“What I took away from the program was that you could make the organization more engaging by doing simple things,” she said.
Attendees of the event were directed to compliment each other through the Zoom chat. Ice-breakers were employed utilizing the poll feature, with questions such as: “Would you rather have more time or more money?” Each time a question was answered, Krieglstein would pull someone into the presenting screen with him to answer.
While spotlighting students, Krieglstein would also give a personal answer. He offered personal anecdotes about his life, such as the fact that he married a few years ago, and some proverbs he felt especially important, such as: “A past mess is a future message.”
Throughout the training, several steps were presented following the dance floor analogy. An organization is considered a “dance floor” and student leaders need to invite others to engage.
“The more friends, the more fun there is,” Krieglstein said. “A friend group is like a mini-dance floor.”
Krieglstein emphasized cultivating connections among group members and recognizing that the pace of engagement varies on several things, including personality type. Each section of information was accompanied by graphics, videos and mini-discussions in breakout rooms. Attendees were encouraged to learn about each other in these breakout rooms as a model to bring back to their respective organizations.
The training focused on how to maneuver spectators to become participants. Krieglstein offered advice on how to slowly build engagement from students who are neutral, starting with a pattern interrupt to kickstart curiosity. From there, student leaders can reel spectators into the group by appealing to their individual identity within the organization.
Krieglstein advised student leaders to practice inclusive behavior. During the Zoom call, celebration of members occurred often with jazz hands or typing in the chat. Another activity involved everyone turning their cameras off and only appearing again to answer a prompt. These activities promoted engagement by allowing participants to reveal facts about themselves.
“As a Zoom conference, one thing that I felt was successful was how the program was facilitated and how accommodating the set up was,” said Santiago. “It included things such as allowing the student leaders to talk and ask questions by using the chat box in the conference.”
When it was 4 p.m, Francey took center-screen to make an announcement. Student organizations will be allowed to hold in-person events in accordance with last semester’s rules. The rooms used must be sanitized before leaving and attendance must be tracked through Pioneer Place or PioHub later in the semester.
“We are definitely bringing back one big tent outside Strebel,” said Francey. “Tabling and bake sales can continue with policies from last semester. Every product has to be pre-packaged by the company before being sold on campus.”
Reservations for Boehlert Conference Room, MacFarlane Auditorium and Donahue Auditorium are open for small events that adhere to social distancing, COVID room occupancies followed and masks mandatory. Strebel Lounge will also be available between Monday and Friday after 5 p.m. Strebel Auditorium will be open after April 5, but priority will be given to the dance team and other performing groups.
The process will involve submitting an event to Pioneer Place or PioHub towards the end of the semester, gaining approval from SLCE and having an occupancy limit. Campus Safety may also need to be spoken with before plans are approved. Pioneer Place will be turning off during April and the college will switch to PioHub, which will serve the same purpose.
“I know this news is exciting, but I also ask that on top of in-person activities you continue to hold some virtual meetings and events,” said Francey. “We have a number of Pioneers who are completely remote and it’s important to keep them involved.”