Bobcat QConnect: a new way to connect with peers during COVID-19

Melanie Careri, Contributing Writer

Lorenzo Bafumi, a sophomore health science student who was put in quarantine, created a new solution to help students at Quinnipiac University who have been feeling lonely and isolated.

This solution is called Bobcat QConnect, a new program that allows students to connect with one another virtually whether they are healthy in their dorms or put into isolation or quarantine. 

“What inspired me to think of the program was my own experience in quarantine because I believe that going through the motions of having to move to Founders and adjusting to that new lifestyle made me try to make the best out of a negative situation,” Bafumi said.

Kevin MacDougall, Quinnipiac’s systems administrator, has aided Bafumi’s idea to become a reality. He added a technology perspective to spread the information of the program and plan activities to make students aware of the program. 

MacDougall predicts Bobcat QConnect will bring more students together. 

I believe it can bridge the gap socially for all students in this challenging time as well as solidify the strong sense of community we have here,” MacDougall said. 

The program will consist of two hour-long Zoom sessions that will provide different ways for students in and out of isolation to join activities together such as cooking classes, yoga, workouts, homework help and more. Some Zoom sessions may be more structured than others, depending on what a student is looking for. 

Bafumi explained how the program will prioritize students’ needs. Whatever experience a student would prefer during their Zoom session, Bafumi is willing to accommodate their needs. 

“If you’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling like making a pizza tonight, but I want to be a part of this and talk to you guys,’ that’s going to be happening a lot and at its core, it’s a support system,” Bafumi said. “The activities we do just supplement the bonds in the connections that are being made.” 

Students will also be provided with care packages for their Zoom sessions. Quinnipiac funded Bafumi to be able to create various kits. For example, a kit for a spa night meeting will include face masks and other pampering necessities. 

Bafumi has made surveys for students to complete that asks them what they would like to have in their Zoom sessions and care packages. To fill out the survey, the link is here

Bafumi said he is working hard to make sure the program is something all students can enjoy and do together. One of his goals is for the program to be fun and relatable. To achieve this, the Zoom sessions will be run by students. 

“You’re with people your age,” Bafumi said. “I don’t think you want to talk to adults all day long after we do that on Zoom already, so I think it’s good to do stuff with your peers that isn’t school related.” 

Occupational therapy professor Cheryl Lucas has also been helping Bafumi’s vision come to life. Her students, who were also working on a support group for students in isolation, heard about Bafumi’s idea and asked Lucas if he could join their team. After agreeing, Lucas and her students helped Bafumi with creating and organizing activities that students can do on Zoom meetings. 

Lucas said she is glad she and her students collaborated with Bafumi. 

“He had a lot of ideas, and we already set up this group,” Lucas said. “So, we just started talking about a lot of things, and I think he really helped us with understanding what students really are feeling when they are in quarantine.”

Lucas also said it’s important students take care of themselves while in quarantine and isolation through different activities. She said that according to various health science statistics, 7.5% of students between ages 18-24 are suffering from anxiety and depression during the pandemic. 

“We know in evidence in healthcare that social interaction, social relationships and social support are really important for health and wellness,” Lucas said. 

Although the campus has gone into “red alert level” with many students going home, Bafumi is determined to continue Bobcat QConnect for the remainder of the fall and in the spring semester. 

Students interested in joining a Bobcat QConnect session are encouraged to check their emails. Lucas is hoping for as many students as possible to try Bobcat QConnect and welcomed students to the Monday and Thursday night meetings. 

“We would love to have any and all people who are interested because we all want to be Bobcat Nation,” Lucas said. “Everyone is welcome.” 

Bafumi is grateful he’s able to create a program to help others. 

“If I can even help one more student have a better quarantine experience, then it’s worth it at the end of the day,” Bafumi said. “It takes for you to go through something to start something.”