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OU Student Affairs, Student Government Association present platform to help students meet peers amid pandemic

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Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students David Surratt speaks during a Nearpeer introduction video. 

OU Student Affairs and the Student Government Association introduced a platform allowing students to connect with peers who share similar interests, backgrounds and experiences last week.

Nearpeer was created as an alternate platform to communicate with people in light of the social limitations imposed by the pandemic, according to the Nearpeer introduction video. It differs from platforms such as Facebook and Instagram by opening people’s social circle to people they don’t know. 

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students David Surratt said in the video he understands how difficult it can be to make new friends and connect. He said Nearpeer is an effective socialization tool, as it assists students in “meeting other student peers outside their normal routine of residence hall, academic schedule, and/or co-curricular activities.”

“During a global pandemic, with physical distancing and also limited opportunity to network and make new friends, it can be a really challenging time,” Surratt said in the video. “So, as an OU alumni and your dean of students, I want to make sure you know the importance of connection and belonging.”

Brynn Daves, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Dean of Students, has been influential in implementing the platform, Surratt said. 

“Its advanced algorithms foster human connection by finding and engaging peers with shared interests, academics, life experiences and more,” Daves said. “Our hope is to utilize Nearpeer to combat isolation and loneliness, increase student satisfaction and provide connection and belonging where (COVID-19) and traditional transition barriers have sidelined it.”

Surratt said in an email he expects the platform will benefit students.

“I am hopeful that this platform will be one tool to help create connections and mitigate feelings of loneliness that we know (COVID-19) has caused for some students,” Surratt said.

Gabriela Tumani is an international student from Brazil. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in international studies and works as a junior news reporter for The Daily.

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