LOGAN —When COVID-19 hit Cache Valley and Utah State University, Sami Ahmed knew things would have to change, but he wanted to make sure he, the Utah State University Student Association President, and other members of the university student association could continue providing some sort of relief and fun for students experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety.
“Initially, the goal was to have events for students no matter what,” Ahmed said. “That decision was not an easy one because there are always two camps to making a decision.”
Still, Ahmed knew students needed something to look forward to, no matter what that may have been able to look like.
Many events have transitioned to a virtual format, often held over Zoom so students can still interact with one another.
“The idea is to get as many people as possible virtually,” Ahmed said. “It’s not the same, the biggest part is having your friends there and having people enjoying the same event and it’s hard to replicate that feeling.”
While many events have been virtual or followed a virtual/in-person hybrid format, the university has held others completely in-person but outside or in small groups.
“I think from a student perspective, it shows that the university is still trying to make sure this is the best experience they can possibly provide under the constraints they have to live with,” Ahmed said. “In a way, it takes away from the reality of what COVID has been, which was just doing nothing at all.”
Other events have transitioned to a completely virtual format, but some students said that has been difficult for students who have had to transition nearly every aspect of their lives to a virtual format.
“We’ve had to try and make a lot of things virtual, which has been difficult because everyone is on Zoom all day long so at the end of the day it’s hard to encourage students to hop on yet another Zoom call,” said Claire Weaver, the USU Student Alumni Association alumni engagement executive. “But it’s what we have to do because having events in-person is just way too much of a risk for both the students and for the alumni.”
Weaver said many alumni and their employers have also adjusted to holding events in a virtual format, so they have not had too much trouble networking with students through Zoom or phone conversations.
“I haven’t heard anything negative so far,” Weaver said. “The student events office has done a good job at making events still happen for students and just doing it in a more careful manner.”
Olivia Hoge, USU College of Humanities and Social Sciences student senator, said her events, which would normally include in-person networking and meeting with professors and administrators, has transitioned to both virtual, outdoor and grab-and-go events in which students are invited for ice cream but must consume it outside of the event space.
“We have students who can’t even go to class for social interaction,” Hoge said. “With CHaSS week coming up, we will have a few events in person following COVID guidelines, etc. so that students, especially freshmen, can get a taste of social life and see what USU is about. Many students just need something to look forward to, and these events give them that.”