Student activities go virtual

Club leaders get creative to engage students on and off campus


Grace Mamon

Student organizations set up tents to replace typical tabling in commons

Nobel Manaye

Clubs are pivoting to continue hosting events and foster relationships between students during COVID-19.

Cultural activities have been hit hard by the pandemic, but it has not stopped some clubs from looking into new ways to promote festivals.

“Most of our events include presentations of homemade food and dancing but we will try to resume our operations with zoom and social media,” Betelihim Haile, ‘22, the president of the African society at W&L said.

And these logistical difficulties haven’t stifled Haile’s ambitions. The African society hosted its first celebration of Eritrean/Ethiopian New Year with a virtual dancing competition on September 11.

“We did have a large turnout for the event,” she said.

Yet, other workshop-intensive clubs like the Leadership Education and Development or LEAD program found difficulties in recruiting professors for discussion sessions.

“[LEAD Programming chair] Catherine Xia had to spend the entire summer trying to recruit professors for our workshops, and that was difficult because professors had a big workload this summer because of COVID-19,’’ Maria Luzaran, ‘23, the chair of the LEAD sessions said.

Training behind screens may never match an in- person session, but that has not stopped LEAD from achieving its goals. This fall, LEAD accepted a record 70 members to its Tier-1 training session.

“The turnout this year was better than we expected,” Luzaran said. “The only difficulty was providing members with the experience that they’d usually get.”

COVID-19 also raised the bar for newly formed clubs.

General Technology, a STEM club also known as GenTech, has faced many challenges this fall since it started last winter.

Normally, it would meet with students at Maury River Middle School, but these students spent the first nine weeks of the semester online and gatherings of more than 10 people fell out- side of W&L’s COVID-19 guide- lines.

“We still plan to conduct virtual after school programs and send hardware kits for the school,’’ Danesh Badlani, ‘22, the president of GenTech said.

COVID-19 guidelines also prevented GenTech from using the IQ center so it had to move its operations to Zoom.

Some of its members have responded well to the new virtual environment.

Haochen Tu, ‘22, a member of GenTech, is working on programming in music. Others have followed suit, working on projects that permit virtual collaboration.

“We had to ensure that all our activities and projects were accessible to everyone, including people who couldn’t come to campus this fall.’’ Badlani said.

And the shift to virtual did give GenTech more flexibility.

‘‘One of the bigger upsides has been the convenience provided to people who can attend events from anywhere,’’ Badlani said “It’s also easier to bring speakers virtually as a part of our speaker series.”