New cross-university initiative helping students connect during the pandemic and beyond

C/O Campus Knct

Creating and supporting community connections has been top of mind for many this year, but it’s important to remember that for university students this isn’t a new concern.

Even prior to the pandemic, many students found it difficult to make connections and form a community at university and often in a new city. Initially created in a response to this concern, the cross-university initiative Campus Kcnt has only become increasingly relevant and welcome since the pandemic.

“It all started in Switzerland in September as all four of my fellow co-founders study there . . . We wanted to build an app that solves the problem. Building an app takes a long time, so decided to find ways to foster more tight-knit communities at university from the get-go,” explained George Batra, one of the founders of Campus Knct.

As they developed the app, Batra and his co-founders launched the Knct podcast series where they interviewed other students to highlight the passions and personalities of their communities.

Furthermore, in the months since they first conceived the idea Knct has grown exponentially and now has representatives at numerous universities around the world, including McMaster University.

Campus Knct at McMaster kicked off with a special New Year’s campaign encouraging students with the resolutions to connect with others to sign up. This campaign was part of the lead-up to the launch of the Knct desktop app at the beginning of February.

Through the app, students are able to join spheres based on their interests, hobbies and program of studies. These spheres help connect students and allow for conversation and activity. 

“[Campus Knct at McMaster] is a community-minded organization that works to help students but also to help anyone looking for meaningful connections and pursuing any of their passions,” said Safwan Sarker, one of the student representatives at McMaster.

The Knct app attempts to mimic the kind of spontaneous interactions more typical of in-person interactions on campus than of the virtual environment, such as meeting someone in a lecture hall or at a campus event.

One of the benefits of the Knct app is that everything for each sphere is all in one place. Most campus clubs and organizations have clubs with an online presence on at least one, if not multiple social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram among others.

But this can be overwhelming and difficult to manage for students, as they may need to maintain multiple accounts for each group they may be a part of.

“The whole point of Knct is to just put all those clubs all in one accessible place,” explained Sarker.

Additionally, a lot of community building in the pandemic relies on students taking a proactive approach and seeking out community themselves, but it can be difficult to know where to start, especially for first-year students. Having everything in one place, the app also makes seeking out a community a bit easier.

Ultimately the goal of Knct is to help students find a community, whatever that may look like for them.

“I think it depends on person to person, right? Because I feel like what [Knct] is tailored to is having the user choose their own experiences . . .  Someone might be looking to make new friends, especially first-years who haven’t gotten a chance to actually go on campus, have [an event] like Welcome Week. And so they might try to get involved with first-year chats,” said Sarker.

These are still very early days for Campus Knct at McMaster, but so far hundreds of students have signed up and more continue to do so.

Moving forward, Sarker anticipates that the app, which is still in its beta phase, will continue to evolve, especially as more students join Knct. Knct is also planning to develop a mobile version of their app in the coming months.

Additionally, looking to the eventual return to campus, Sarker expects that Knct will continue to grow and look for ways to continue helping students connect, whatever the circumstances. 

Sarker also encourages students to reach out if they’re interested in getting involved with Knct. He spoke animatedly about his own experiences with Knct and the opportunities it has offered him to give back not only to the McMaster community but with other students beyond McMaster as well.

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