The colorful, rectangular structure on West Virginia University’s downtown campus is not just there for looks.
It’s WVU’s Refresh Pop-Up Shop, the physical accompaniment to the university’s Refresh Student Activities Series.
The series allows students to register for classes and activities online – not for grades, but for entertainment and enjoyment, said WVU Director of Brand Experience Joel Brown.
Students who enroll in activities through Refresh have the opportunity to make unique crafts, learn to cook and bake from world-class chefs and engage with other students.
For example, the April 1 activity will involve students making a French yogurt cake alongside Dorie Greenspan, a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, via the Zoom platform.
Students register for the class or activity of their choice online, then stop by the Refresh Pop-Up Shop to pick up a free kit that includes the ingredients or materials needed for that activity.
The series also offers wellness and wellbeing activities and pop-up pickup activities where students can pick up a free cupcake or a gift card from a giveaway, Brown said.
Brown said the Refresh series and pop-up shop are new additions to the WVU campus as of August. The series was developed as a way for WVU to enable student engagement and socialization in a safe way during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the activity series is also a way to combat student burnout and mental health concerns, and that it has received a positive response from students who have participated.
“We know that students are having Zoom fatigue, we know that students are experiencing a lot that happens with their mental wellbeing. This is a great escape,” Brown said.
He said even if students aren’t necessarily “crafty” people, participating in a Refresh class or activity can be a way to just have fun, experience something new and build a sense of camaraderie with the other students involved.
Brown said the feelings of calm and community that the series has provided some students have encouraged university administration to consider the afterlife of the Refresh series and pop-up shop. There are conversations happening regarding how the program might be able to remain a part of the university as it aims for a semi-normal fall semester.
“We don’t have any solid answers yet to that question, but we are working to find a format where it can live and breathe, where we can do these cooking activities or crafting activities in a live experience, in person, or a hybrid model,” Brown said.
He said his job is heavily rooted in events and experiences, including bringing Welcome Week to students, and that university faculty miss providing such activities.
“It has been my life’s work, so to speak, and this last semester … it has been a lot of me and a small group of people really working together with the larger part of the university to create those experiences and opportunities that we’re so known for, but in a safe and distant way. That has been a lot of fun. It’s a challenge, but I think we as Mountaineers have done a great job with it and our students as Mountaineers have really embraced it,” Brown said.
The Refresh Student Activities Series – and its bright shipping container companion – is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Company, whose drink products can also be picked up for free at the Refresh Pop-Up Shop on a daily basis.
The Refresh Pop-Up Shop is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
For more information on the WVU Refresh Student Activities Series and to view a schedule of activities and events, visit https://refresh.wvu.edu/.