By Mary Kate Sheppard, Staff Writer –
Welcome Week at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had a different look this semester, and that’s because it was broadcast through a computer screen.
UTC has experienced numerous changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and even opportunities for involvement on campus have been transformed drastically.
As the Chattanooga community made the move to online classes, many student organizations were forced to transition online as well. Sports teams have established different guidelines for practices, clubs have held meetings via Zoom, and even Greek Life organizations have transitioned to online meetings.
However, the question still remains for incoming freshman and returning students: how can we stay involved?
The Office of Student and Family Engagement offered a solution in the form of a Virtual Involvement Fair, which took place on Tuesday, August 25. Due to social distancing guidelines and growing concern regarding the safety of in-person events, the fair was hosted via Zoom and consisted of presentations which introduced students to some of the organizations on campus.
“We felt the need to offer this replacement since we couldn’t host organization fairs over the summer at orientation. We owed it to our student [organizations],” said Emelia Dunston, Associate Dean of Students.
The Student Involvement Fair will also be held on Wednesday, Sept. 2 and Tuesday, Sept. 8, at various times throughout each day. In each session, students will be given the opportunity to chat with three to four different student organization leaders.
Some of the organizations promoted in the first session included The American Society of Civil Engineers, Best Buddies UTC, Mock Trial, Adventist Christian Fellowship, Beta Upsilon Chi Fraternity, Sigma Phi Lambda Sorority, and the Residence Hall Association. There are many organizations yet to be showcased.
A primary concern for the Office of Student and Family Engagement was addressing the lack of student involvement, especially considering the barriers COVID-19 presents.
“This was definitely something that was necessary and worth doing,” Dunston said.
She also admitted that, while the numbers were low for the first Student Involvement Fair, she and her office have made some changes that may increase attendance moving forward.
These changes include no longer requiring students to RSVP for the fair, making the Zoom link more easily accessible, and heavier promotion.
“Students are still wrapping their heads around this new COVID reality,” Dunston said, “Everyone is trying to figure out what this new normal is going to look like, but students still need involvement. They need that avenue to connect with each other now more than ever.”
Organizations included in the next fair on Sept. 2 include Beta Beta Beta, Society of Women Engineers, UTC Pre-Dental Society, American Society of Civil Engineers, The Green Fork Club, Best Buddies, Orthodox Christian Campus Ministers, and Interfraternity Council (IFC) Chapters.
Students can access the fair via Mocsync and will receive an email containing the Zoom link and more information sometime before Sept. 2.