For the past 11 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. At KPU, in-person education at the five bustling campuses was traded for online learning. It’s not just the students and instructors who’ve had to readjust to the new normal, but also KPU’s extracurriculars.
Wajeeha Rahman, president of KPU’s Muslim Student Association, says the group had to refocus itself over the past year to stay afloat.
“We have felt it quite a bit,” Rahman says of COVID-19’s impacts on the MSA, which she says is a place not just for Muslims, but for people of all cultures and backgrounds. Typically, the MSA hosts what she calls “thought-provoking events” that encourage people to think about what they have just experienced even after the event has wrapped up, and allowing people to grow as individuals, building bridges along the way.
Last May they planned to host their milestone fifth annual Ramadan Iftar event, a dinner that would’ve seen 100 attendees as the MSA’s biggest event yet. By March, the dinner was in the final stages of planning, but due to the pandemic the entire event had to be cancelled.
“It has been a learning process as well,” Rahman says. “Trying to navigate the online, virtual world through classes, entertaining a club, and making sure everyone’s active has surely been a hassle.”
In the fall they hosted a mental health workshop that was open to everyone, with the goal of breaking common misconceptions surrounding mental health. Rahman says this type of event was necessary due to the existing stigma surrounding mental health combined with the negative effect the pandemic is having on students.
The last in-person event was held on campus in the summer of 2019, which Rahman says was popular. Not surprisingly, she says, attendance for the MSA’s virtual events has dwindled since then. This is due to a combination of factors, including marketing for previous events being done by in-person advertising, by word-of-mouth, and having the ease of it being held on campus where students could pop in between classes.
Their outlook for the spring semester looks brighter, with weekly meetings being held between team members, and they’re ramping up efforts for new members to join. They hosted a virtual movie night on Feb. 16, and due to the cancellation of last year’s Ramadan Iftar event, they are planning for a new virtual Ramadan event to be held later this spring.
Rahman adds that they’re retooling their marketing strategies so there will be greater exposure for future events, and that the MSA is very excited to host in-person events again one day. She says the work they do is more than just hosting events, and encompasses brand reputation where it gives students something to look forward to and gets people talking. They hope to be able to host the large-scale Ramadan Iftar dinner, in-person mental health workshops, movie nights, and other weekly and annual events once it’s safe to do so.
“KPU MSA is always open to creating new members, and we’re definitely excited to have new people come into our team,” says Rahman.