By Jeff Willadsen, Global Campus Senior Writer
Washington State University will continue to offer virtual tailgating events open to all WSU fans for the 2021 collegiate football season, beginning with WSU’s first home game against the Utah State Aggies Sep. 4.
The events, known as Virtual Gameday Lounges, began during the 2020 season due the absence of in-person tailgating and game attendance that resulted from the COVID-19 Pandemic. The decision was made to continue the online events into 2021 due to their popularity last year, as well as the convenience they provide to WSU fans who are unable to attend football games in person.
“We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from those who attended the Virtual Gameday Lounges last year. We were also very happy with the attendance, and it proved to be one our most popular events ever,” said Andria Donnenwerth, Global Campus student involvement manager.
“Even though there will be opportunities to cheer on the Cougs in person this year, we wanted to keep the virtual tailgating alive for those who can’t attend in-person or just prefer to celebrate from the comfort of their homes.”
The Global Connections program has been providing WSU Global Campus students around the world with engaging virtual programing to connect them to their online Cougar community and diversify their learning experiences since 2012.
As the COVID-19 pandemic caused all WSU campuses to switch to virtual learning in early 2020, the dedicated WSU employees behind the Global Connections program recognized the need for virtual engagement and community-building opportunities among Cougs across the university system. One of the events that came out of this effort was Virtual GameDay Lounges.
“Since we couldn’t tailgate together in person that season, we decided to celebrate virtually. And we wanted Cougs from all campuses to join us,” said Donnenwerth. “We hoped to replicate the experience of community and Cougar spirit that people normally have while rooting on their Cougs in person. It was refreshing to see that kind of enthusiasm online.”
Though Global Connections was created primarily to provide for the engagement needs of online Global Campus students, Cougs from all WSU campuses are encouraged to attend the Virtual Gameday Lounge.
“Last year, we saw the switch to virtual instruction as an opportunity to provide more engagement opportunities for more Cougs,” said Donnenwerth. “Whether you were an online student or not, we were all in the same boat during the pandemic, and building engagement and a sense of Cougar community became even more important.”
During the online tailgating events, the Global Connections team seeks to cultivate a fun atmosphere of celebration and camaraderie. Activities during the events include cheering on the WSU football team , socializing with fellow Cougs, football-themed games, prize giveaways, and more.
“It’s a great atmosphere, and you can tell that everyone is having fun and enjoying themselves,” said Andrea Jimenez, Global Connections program coordinator, who helped run last year’s events.
“You also get a very strong sense of community, and that’s something worth celebrating.”
The first Virtual Gameday Lounge of the 2021 season begins at 8 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, Sept. 4. Interested WSU fans, including students faculty, staff, and alumni from all campuses, can register for the event on the Global Connections webpage.