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University Students Flock to Pen Pal Program


AS UNIVERSITIES AROUND THE WORLD moved to remote teaching and learning during the spring semester, students from USF and universities around the world turned to a time-honored concept to stay connected: the pen pal.

The College Pen Pal initiative was launched by the COMPASS student experience office at USF’s St. Petersburg campus after USF moved to remote instruction in March.

Less than 48 hours after the program was announced on Instagram, more than 700 students from universities across the country and all three USF campuses signed up to correspond with a like-minded pal while practicing social distancing.

By late April, the COMPASS office had matched nearly 1,600 students from 227 institutions, including 240 USF students. The vast majority are from the United States (including the University of Hawaii, Manoa), with additional sign-ups from Canada, Zambia and South Africa.

“I thought of the idea the first week students were away from campus, when we were scrambling to think through how to engage them from afar,” explains COMPASS Program Coordinator Meredith Mechanik. “My first thought was to keep the program within USF, but there’s something really powerful about the fact that college students around the world – regardless of their major or where they live – are having a shared experience. With that in mind, we leaned into the opportunity for them to connect with someone they likely never would’ve come across otherwise.”

To participate, students can follow this link. Links are also available on USF’s social media pages. After filling out the online form, participants will be matched with one another by members of the COMPASS program.

It is up to participants how frequently they want to correspond.

- CARRIE O’BRION | Marketing and Communications