Tackling anxiety and loneliness with a good conversation

| Jennifer Cutinha

Coffee, standing tables and good conversations. Those are the ingredients for the first edition of Meet & Greet Street, organized by University Innovation Fellows, which starts today. ‘We want students and employees alike to casually gather and connect with one another.’

Emilija Banytė, a bachelor student of Communication Science and one of the fellows expresses her concern over the  increasing feelings of loneliness and depression amongst students, a matter that has also been receiving a lot of media attention in the recent weeks. ‘As part of our training from Stanford Design school, we are taught to analyze problems that occur at our university and find solutions through ‘design thinking’. We identified a problem of student depression and anxiety even before the pandemic.’

‘There was article on U-Today that mentioned that 80 percent of students suffer from depression and anxiety, which I found extremely shocking. And now with the pandemic, that has gotten even worse. So we wanted to come up with an initiative where both students and employees alike can casually gather and connect with one another, while also abiding by the COVID regulations.’

Stanford University Innovation Fellows

The University Innovation Fellows program is a global initiative that encourages students to shape the future of education. Each semester, UT students are selected to participate in the program and to come up with plans on how to improve the university.

Standing coffee tables and conversational cards

Initially the University Innovation Fellows had planned for eight locations, but with the ‘mild’ lockdown, it has been limited to four – DesignLab, Carré, Bastille and Vrijhof. The locations are open every day for the duration of the project, and people can walk in anytime as long as it is within the opening hours of the building. ‘We’ve arranged for standing coffee tables with conversational cards to help people get started with a conversation. But of course, people can proceed however they like, we are not going to moderate. In the past, we carried out an experiment where we used a seating arrangement and we found that people tend to mingle less. Standing tables allow for more movement and more mingling.’

The first edition of Meet & Greet Street starts today and lasts until 7 December. ‘For now, this is only a pilot, which is why we also provide feedback forms at the setup. If it goes well, we plan to have more editions – one for Valentine’s Day, King’s Day etc., with more elaborate arrangements.’