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Student Life director tackles event planning amid COVID-19

By Brianna Murphy

Staff Writer

Photo by Victoria Deal

New and returning students may struggle to find a sense of community. Student life provides events and creates life-long connections to help students get the full Tyler Junior College experience.

Lauren Tyler, director of student life, coordinates plans that provide the community many students long for on campus.

Tyler graduated with a bachelor’s from Stephen F. Austin State University and a master’s in human resource development from the University of Texas at Tyler.

Before working at TJC, she worked in multiple offices at SFA as a mentor. She also worked at the Student Life Association, where she discovered her passion in planning events to provide exciting experiences to students. 

“I really enjoyed college and the college experience and thought I wanted to work at one, and started here in advising, and then moved into student life when there was an opportunity,” Tyler said.

With the pandemic, Tyler said working in student life has been a tedious learning process. 

Tyler said, “in a normal semester we are planning for events, booking caterers, and [hiring] all the different vendors.” Due to COVID-19, “this semester of course looks different because it is more virtual.” 

As an event planner, Tyler has faced difficulties in trying to connect to students through their screens. 

 “The lack of interaction is hard because it is not really the experience we normally get at TJC,” Tyler said.

Students face screen fatigue, making it hard for them to want to join online events. Additionally, Student Life hopes to provide a safe set of events so they can get back to the “new normal.” Lauren said both she and student life employees continue to stay optimistic for the future of activities and events. 

Tyler said in Student Life, the heart of tradition is what shines through events and activities. 

 “Our office really works to try and have traditions and continue some of those traditions and create new ones,” Tyler said.

Through all the fun and exciting activities, Tyler’s favorite events are Homecoming week and the Ya-A-Te Leadership Retreat. 

Running programs offers variety to both coordinators and students. On the job, every day is different, and Tyler enjoys meeting students through programs and fellowship.

In the future, as COVID-19 calms down, student life plans to host more events in the Spring. These events include the 10th annual 50-Gallon Challenge and 12 sports running at the same time.

With the excitement toward spring, Tyler said TJC will still incorporate online events for at-home students. Tyler said, “we will keep online options” and “hope to have a good mix of events.”

Student life takes pride in being able to provide students with life-changing opportunities.

“The experience that our students have outside the classroom is what sets TJC apart from other institutions,” Tyler said. “Hopefully students meet their new best friend, maybes it’s just helping their mood, giving them an escape — we feel our office offers that.” 

Many students come to TJC to benefit from these aspects and enjoy the culture and sports campus offers. “A lot of times we have students that say they came here for the experience,” Tyler said 

Tyler and student life staff members help keep the heart of TJC a focus for events and activities.

Caitlian Ibarra, coordinator of Student Life, said over the years Tyler has been a great leader. “She has brought in new and innovative ways to get students involved,” Ibarra said. “She makes a huge impact with student life all over campus.” 

This is the fourth feature in a series highlighting the “unsung heroes” of TJC. Lauren Tyler was selected for her work in Student Life.

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