February 25, 2024

Crystal Rawls: Online Organizer

Assistant Director of Student Activities and Engagement Crystal Rawls

Assistant Director of Student Activities and Engagement Crystal Rawls

Nothing ever stopped Crystal Rawls from going to school. With perfect attendance from kindergarten through 12th grade, she never missed a single day with her classmates. So she can understand why students miss being together on the University of Mary Washington campus.

Even while they’re social-distancing during the pandemic, though, UMW students haven’t missed out on opportunities to engage with their peers, thanks to the Office of Student Activities and Engagement (SAE), of which Rawls is assistant director.

“Our goal is to give students the chance to connect with each other, especially during these trying times,” Rawls said. A communications major, she was active on VCU’s campus as an undergrad, which led her to pursue a master’s degree in higher education at Old Dominion University. “We want to help them lay the groundwork so they can continue fostering these relationships once they return to campus.”

That’s easy to do in a normal year, but when COVID-19 cases began to climb last spring, the SAE team had to get creative, lining up activities on social media and Zoom. Throughout the summer, they kept incoming and current students entertained with bracket challenges and game nights, film screenings and cooking videos, playlists and podcast recommendations.

“We were able to interact with a large group of students, especially the Class of 2024,” said Rawls, who expects that even more will engage this fall after Club Carnival, which runs through Sept. 4. The popular Ball Circle event has been transformed into a week of virtual interest meetings, held by UMW’s more than 150 student clubs and organizations.

“Student activities can help you find your on-campus family,” said Rawls, who met one of her closest friends through a college club. “They can help you make lifelong friendships and create a lasting bond with your school.”


Q: What activities were you involved in while in college?
A: I served as a resident assistant and undergraduate teaching assistant, and I was a member of VCU ASPiRE, a living and learning community that encourages community engagement.

Q: What does your job at UMW entail?
A: I help UMW’s student clubs and organizations plan campus activities. I’m also the advisor to the Campus Programming Board (CPB) and Class Council, as well as STEP@UMW, Women of Color and Comb As You Are, which promotes natural hair and beauty. I also coordinate the Student Leadership Committee and serve as the Title IX Deputy for Students.

Q: What other virtual activities are planned for the fall?
A: CPB is having a caricature speed drawing event, and we’re also planning socially distanced scavenger hunts and online movie screenings. Bingo is returning, with surprise campus celebrity hosts and a special guest, Morgan McMichaels from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Q: Are there any new clubs this semester?
A: Aubade Literary and Art Magazine is returning after a hiatus, and new organizations include the Culinary Club, Day on Democracy and the Fourth Wall Studio Club, focusing on filmmaking.

Q: What do you do when you’re not working?
A: Catch up on Netflix – The Umbrella Academy is quite good – and listen to podcasts.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: There is only one of you in the world, so be the best you that you can be.