Creating Connection During a Pandemic: How Student Q&As on Instagram Added Humanity (and Critical Messaging) During a Difficult Semester

We explored creating digital togetherness through a new series of student features on Instagram.

As the world flipped upside down in March 2020, CSU Social had just launched a student Q&A initiative on Instagram as a way to humanize the feed and spotlight members of our diverse Ram community. 

Looking back at the past year and the many features we published, this new initiative shows that it is a powerful way to create digital togetherness during the isolation of quarantine and living through a pandemic, reinforces CSU’s COVID-19 protocols, and acts as a tool to strengthen our social media strategy — even as we all work, learn, and stay at home.

The following are the Five Ws and my reflections of the CSU student features on Instagram.


Primarily current students but also professors, alumni and members of our CSU Ramily. This project originally aimed to highlight people from the CSU community on the university’s Instagram feed. As 2020 showed, long-form captions became all the rage on Instagram, and many expect this trend to continue to grow. We felt that featuring students through an interview process was a solid way to both attempt long-form captions on Instagram, but also add more student life content to the feed. After taking a break over the summer, we created a list of major events, celebrations, and notable efforts at the University, and reached out to find students (and others) who may be interested in being featured on Instagram. 

Screenshot of student Q&A on Instagram
Emely Cruz Arrazola, an Orientation Leader, shared her excitement for the upcoming fall semester during Ram Welcome.


Screenshot of alumna Q&A on Instagram
Sydney Jackson-Clockston, a CSU alumna spoke about her favorite CSU memories and traditions during the virtual Stay-at-Homecoming Weekend.

Several professors participated in the Q&A series, including
Dr. Anthony Marchese who promoted the campus-wide Rams Read initiative

It’s also important to note that the Q&A initiative is student-led, powered by myself and another CSU Social intern, Trout. Together, we interview the featured Ram, write the Q&A, and photograph the student and professor — all while following public health orders. 


This initiative is a way to showcase people (primarily students), and a way to connect our Ram community during a time when most of us were apart. These features are more than just a way to share important messages or highlight major events, they’re intended to highlight amazing stories found all over at CSU. It worked especially well during a time when we couldn’t sit in class with our peers, chatting and learning about each others’ backgrounds; instead, we’re getting to know about student leaders on social media. 

We highlighted a first-generation student on National First-Generation College Celebration Day. Kathryn shared her journey to college, as well as the unique struggles that she’s had to face as a first-generation student. 

Around Veterans Day, we shared the story of Sara Williams, a student-veteran at CSU

Screenshot of student Q&A on Instagram
We celebrated Latinx Heritage Month on Instagram by highlighting a student involved with CSU’s El Centro. Jose spoke about his Mexican heritage and the virtual events the El Centro office was hosting during Latinx Heritage Month.


The location of the process begins with an interview, either over Zoom or on the phone (yay, 2020). The photographs are taken somewhere relevant to the person featured. Then, after drafting and editing the interview caption, the feature lives on the Instagram feed, Twitter, and sometimes even Facebook. 

Screenshot of student Q&A on Instagram
The CSU Student Body President was captured in our university student government Senate chambers.


We want to highlight student leaders, but also share the most important stories we can at the best time we can. The post below was published on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Weston is a CSU student who discussed his Native American heritage as well as shared his CSU story. 

Screenshot of student Q&A on Instagram
CSU student Weston Gage Jones was featured in a Q&A.


The university’s decades-long tradition of Nutrien Ag Day went all-virtual (thanks, again, 2020) this year, and gave us an opportunity to feature both a College of Agricultural Sciences student and professor. Each talked about CSU’s agricultural roots and traditions. 


These Instagram features are an excellent way to reinforce our social media strategy, including elements of inclusion and celebrating our university community. I have the opportunity to speak with so many amazing people who want to share their story as to why they chose CSU, their backgrounds, and the work they’re doing to strengthen the community. We’re sharing identities, giving voice to campus community members, and spreading critical messages – notably, this semester we were able to continually remind our followers of safe COVID practices like wearing a mask. 

Screenshot of student Q&A on Instagram
Gaby is a doctoral student at CSU working on a COVID-19 research project.

Closing thoughts

CSU’s Instagram is arguably one of the most visible and accessible ways for new and current students, alumni, and many community members to become aware of what’s going on at the university. We’re excited to continue highlighting members of the CSU community into the new semester.