photo by Kate Nuelle
Aria Gastón-Panthaki, a senior psychology major and one of two current DIO student assistants, has made a home in the office since becoming a social justice peer educator her sophomore year.
“It’s an open space for everyone, but especially marginalized students to have a place on campus where they feel heard, they feel seen, and they feel that community on campus,” said Gastón-Panthaki.
Alli Roman, former Director of Diversity and Inclusion, started Flashback Fridays as an intentional way to foster community between students on a regular basis. Members of the Trinity community are invited to join the DIO for different throwback music each week, with themes ranging from queer artists to an Insync versus the Backstreet Boys battle.
Flashback Fridays became something to look forward to at the end of the week for many students, who came for the music and stayed for the sense of belonging.
While these weekly gatherings are about the music, they’re also about enjoying time together through Oreo tastings, dance parties, and meeting new people. These connections are especially important in the times of COVID-19, where many students feel isolated and crave social interactions with new people, especially those who have fond memories of the welcoming atmosphere the DIO was known for.
For Gastón-Panthaki, hosting Flashback Fridays on Zoom is one way she is trying to recreate the relaxed atmosphere and welcoming environment she remembers from the tradition in person.
“I went to almost every one just because at the end of the week it’s so nice to sit down and just talk with people that I had never met before, and I feel like that can still happen, to virtually connect with people,” said Gastón-Panthaki.
Steven Drake, junior Spanish major and the DIO’s in-person student assistant this semester, emphasized the importance of the DIO’s accessibility to first-year students, who have had to get creative in order to meet new people on campus.
“A lot of the regular people who hung out in the DIO were Juniors and Seniors. Eventually, they will have graduated and with our current circumstances, there’s a whole class of Trinity students who probably have no idea what the DIO is about, where it is, or much less if it even exists,” said Drake in an email interview.
Though attendance on Zoom has been lower than in-person events, Gastón-Panthaki hopes that more people will take advantage of the regularity and relaxed nature of this weekly event. She agrees that first-years in particular can make the most from student programming by attending virtual events like Flashback Friday.
“I definitely hope more freshmen show up to it, I know that it can be really hard showing up to a random Zoom meeting but hopefully it’ll allow people to feel a little more connected to Trinity and more connected to campus and definitely more connected to the DIO,” said Gastón-Panthaki.
In addition to encouraging first-year students and those seeking to feel safe in a welcoming environment to join the weekly Zoom, Drake suggests interested students to come into the office to liven up the space, following health protocols to ensure safety.
“If they are reading this now, I just want them to know that we are still here and that there is still a space for them,” wrote Drake.
The DIO is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, with a strict capacity of seven people.
Flashback Fridays occur each week from 4:00 P.M to 5:00 PM CST, and the Zoom link can be found on the @tudiversityoffice page on Instagram.