• Meghan Sorensen

UMass Connect Works to Bridge the Gap Between Students

Lately, many students have struggled to navigate the extreme loneliness that commonly accompanies online learning, social distancing, and simply living through a pandemic. Without widespread campus events and in-person club meetings and classes, many have felt more isolated than ever.

Joshua Lewis, a sophomore political science major, understood these student struggles and created UMass Connect after being inspired by a similar program run at the college he had previously attended.

“College is a hard time for lots of people. And the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made it 10x harder,” Lewis said in a Reddit post in late February.

As the name suggests, the goal of UMass Connect is to unite UMass Amherst students in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Students are able to respond to polls, surveys, and signups to allow for events to cater to interests.

“Seeing people talk about their loneliness and inability to learn on Zoom is devastating,” wrote Lewis. “Having experienced learning difficulties and mental health issues myself, I completely understand everyone's plight which is why I have created a platform to help students connect during this trying time: UMass Connect.”

Lewis said that his personal experience as a transfer student has also inspired the mission for UMass Connect as well as navigating the loneliness that has accompanied living through the pandemic.

“I know how difficult it can be to meet people and socialize during these times so I would like to provide them a medium to do so,” said Lewis.

Since its creation in late January, the Instagram account has garnered almost 300 followers with its mission of connecting students in a safe and socially-distanced fashion.

“People are pretty interested,” Lewis said. “I think it’d be a super cool way to allow students to get to know each other and organize to bring people together. A lot of times reaching out is kind of scary. Especially right now, it’s hard to reach out to people. It’s hard to make new friends, so that kind of bridges the gap.”

So far, the Instagram account has suggested events such as a boba tea outing and a workout buddy program. In addition, Lewis has posted polls to judge interest in other future safe events, such as grabbing pizza or going for a nature walk.

“It is my mission to improve the quality of life for as many UMass students as I can,” wrote Lewis. “I hope that I can host events and have decent turnout so that I can connect UMass students!”

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