During pandemic, UH Hilo student clubs and orgs provide sense of normalcy and community

During this time of social restrictions for the health and safety of all, there are still many opportunities for students to connect with others, no matter their schedule or proximity to campus.

Eight logos of various student organizations.
Logos of UH Hilo student organizations based at the Campus Center. Top row from left, Board of Media Broadcasting, University Radio Hilo, Board of Student Publications, Hohonu Student-Run Journal of Academic Writing. Bottom row from left: Kanilehua Student-Run Art and Literary Magazine, Ke Kalahea Student-Run Newspaper, Student Activities Council, Ka Lama Ku Student Leadership Development Program, and UH Hilo Student Association. Image source.

By Elena Espinoza.

Student services based at the Campus Center are an integral part of student success at University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

Portrait of Lai Sha
Lai Sha Bugado. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

“Campus Center is the university’s hub, an anchor and constant in the chaos that is student life,” says Lai Sha Bugado, director of the center. Some of the most important services at the center include co-curricular programs for students that build leadership skills, social ties, and a strong sense of community.

A foundational piece of this mission is found in student organizations, which took a hard hit when the pandemic forced social distancing and students switched to distance learning. Staff based on the second floor of Campus Center who advise and coordinate all chartered and registered student organizations had to think fast in order to continue providing a sense of normalcy and community for students.

This effort is led by Maile Boggeln, campus coordinator of student organizations. Boggeln recalls when she was a student worker for the Student Activities Council and how it helped her grow as an individual.

Portrait of Maile Boggeln
Maile Boggeln. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

“Student activities really helped with my identity development and my confidence and my skill sets,” she says.

During this time of social restrictions for the health and safety of all, there are still many opportunities for students to connect with others, no matter their schedule or proximity to campus. Student activities continue to create spaces for members of the Vulcan community to stay safe and healthy while they connect and grow.

Student activities and COVID-19

UH Hilo’s student organizations consist of Chartered Student Organizations (CSOs, organizations that receive student fees), such as the Board of Media Broadcasting, Board of Student Publications, UH Hilo Student Association, and the Student Activities Council, as well as Registered Independent Organizations (RISOs) or campus clubs. These organizations allow students to blossom into their full potential through building leadership skills, strong social ties, and peer-based communities.

Students running these organizations hold themselves responsible for providing leadership for their peers at UH Hilo. During this time of the pandemic and associated restrictions, there is a sense of uncertainty in how to plan and execute quality events. Student activities have shifted from mostly in-person programs to hybrids, with in-person events strictly following ever-changing university and U.S. Center of Disease Control (CDC) guidelines regarding COVID-19.

Student leaders have risen to the occasion, deciding what virtual services look like for the Vulcan community and organizing them as well as possible.

Bogglen says the RISOs are mostly conducting their work online and are advertising their activities and meetings through their social media. “I am working on adding their handles to the approved RISO doc on our website,” she says.

For the chartered organizations, all students are able to access the following virtually (links located on their web pages):

Notice: Campus Center is hosting "Mix and Match: Meet the Student Organizations Night" Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, 5-7p, Campus Center Plaza. The event will give students the opportunity to check out the various opportunities with both Chartered Student Organizations and Registered Independent Student Organizations.  In-person events are happening, too. The Board of Media Broadcasting is holding meet and greet events outdoors near the residence halls with swag that includes face masks. Ke Kalahea, the student-led paper, is still turning out issues complete with bagel-and-cream-cheese open houses to distribute “hot off the press” papers.

The Student Activities Council plans to hold a meet-and-greet with snacks and in November, pumpkin carving, all on the Campus Center Plaza with covid protocols in place.

Even with all the activity, student leaders recognize there has been a collective trauma experienced due to COVID-19 that has left them tired and burnt out. Many students involved in student services had to move home because of the pandemic, where they now have to distribute their energy between school, student activities, and home life. It has become overwhelming for a lot of them to provide this very needed sense of community on top of their pre-existing responsibilities as student leaders.

Despite these challenges, Director Bugado points out, this new found responsibility of ensuring a sense of community for their peers gives students a sense of purpose. “Student leaders understand that their services make an impact and are vital to students’ quality of life during this pandemic,” she says.

Ku‘uhiapo Jeong, a fourth-year undergraduate double majoring in communications and psychology, serves as a vice chairperson for the Board of Media Broadcasting and as a member-at-large for InterVarsity’s Hui Ho‘omana, says, “Student activities are especially important during COVID because it brings a sense of normalcy back to student life.”

Coordinator Boggeln says for these students, being an anchor for the Vulcan community has helped student leaders “rally together and recommit themselves.” She applauds and commends student leaders and the UH Hilo student body as a whole for their incredible levels of resilience throughout COVID-19.

She also says that it has been amazing to see the strength and potential of UH Hilo’s student body as community leaders and contributors. “UH Hilo students have a great level of resilience. I know now that the next generation will bring goodness to our future.”

More ways for students to connect  

Director Bugado and Coordinator Boggeln encourage students to engage in student activities in the following ways.

Campus Center: The first step is to visit the Campus Center website and related social media to stay up to date. The website has in-depth information on upcoming events, facility hours, student organizations, and other services such as the game room, which is now free to use (by appointment and walk-ins) for UH Hilo students. For students who are on campus and want to participate in on campus activities held by certain organizations, the campus center website offers a comprehensive breakdown and guide on how to pay and take advantage of services.

UH Hilo app: Students are also encouraged to download the UH Hilo app, which offers four ways to stay connected with campus: access campus information, keep class and event schedules organized, join campus discussions, and connect with peers.

Campus Center Organizations: Chartered Student Organizations have their own online and social media platforms where they share their publications, live “talk story” sessions with artists and published authors, and other recorded and pre-recorded events. Registered Independent Student Organizations have social media platforms where they share upcoming meetings, events, and other activities.

One-on-one support: Students may also request a one-on-one meeting with Boggeln to talk about interests and goals, where she can help the student connect with student advisors and student leaders of organizations that best fit the student’s needs.


A campus identification (ID) card gives students access to a variety of in-person services, including activities sponsored by student-led organizations. The card shows that the student has paid the mandatory Student Activities Fee. If a student is taking all online classes, they were not assessed the fee at the time of registration, so the student may opt into the fee now if interested in attending student organization activities.

Students are able to submit an online request for their new Campus ID card via the Virtual Campus ID Card Request form. The review and creation process may take up to two business days after confirmation of payment has been made.

Virtual requests for campus IDs are one example of an adapted process that has had great success. During ID season, the line usually wraps around the campus center building. Providing an online option for students reduces this line and creates a safe way for students, in-person or remote, to obtain their ID.

Bugado shares that when this idea was first brought to her by Matthew Kalahiki, her administrative fiscal support specialist, she was hesitant. They decided to implement it anyway and the success of the service was more than she could’ve asked for. Bugado emphasizes the importance of ideas like this and encourages students to come to the campus center with their ideas. “No idea is a bad idea,” she says.

Upcoming event to learn more about student clubs

Campus Center is hosting a “Mix and Match: Meet the Student Organizations Night” on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Campus Center Plaza. The event will give students the opportunity to check out the various opportunities with both Chartered Student Organizations and Registered Independent Student Organizations. LumiSight UH app clearance, face masks, and social distancing are required.

By Elena Espinoza, an English major also earning a certificate in teaching English as a second language.

Profile photos by Kirsten Aoyagi, a communication major.