UConn will be holding its Involvement Fair virtually this semester due to the nation-wide omicron surge. The involvement fair will be held Wednesday, Jan. 26, in three sessions from 12-3 p.m., 3-6 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. The first two sessions will host different clubs while the third session will act as a roundup session for students that were not able to attend the first two. More information about the involvement fair, what will be offered and the times that certain interests will be available are listed on the website https://studentactivities.uconn.edu/involvement-fair/.
Dr. Joseph Briody is the assistant vice president for Student Affairs and executive director of Student Activities. He said the involvement fair was not originally planned to be held online, but because of the circumstances of omicron, such as a limited number of students on campus and red alert level, holding an in-person involvement fair would have been impossible.
“We had hoped to be able to host an in-person involvement fair this year. Unfortunately, we had to transition to the virtual format when we learned of the decision to be remote for the first couple of weeks,” Briody said via email.
Briody then spoke about the challenges of having to move the events online with such short notice. He credits the staff of Student Activities for being able to draw upon their experience during the pandemic in order to provide a safe mode of connection for students.
“Well, I believe our quick and successful pivot to a virtual fair was honestly the result of knowledgeable, talented, and proactive staff (across Student Activities) who were able to anticipate what might happen and then draw on the experiences of the past 2 years to re-create the experience in a virtual environment fairly quickly,” Briody said.
When asked what Student Activities has learned from its two previous virtual involvement fairs, Briody said he understands that students prefer the energy of an in-person experience. Briody said despite this, Student Activities has learned how to provide a viable substitute for students who wish to become more involved on campus.
“I think we’ve learned (were reminded) that we much prefer the presence and energy of students in-person on campus for the fair – and that students do too. We’ve also learned that the virtual format nonetheless provides a workable substitute to the in-person experience that allows students to connect and engage – and that remains the goal under any circumstances,” Briody said.
Briody also talked about the possibility of a rise in club engagement this semester, similar to the rise that many clubs saw last semester.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s understandable pent up excitement to join, connect and engage in person across the University. Our student organizations have always proven a great way to meet new people, find common interests and grow in various ways,”Dr. Joseph Briody, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and executive director of Student Activities.
This led to the question of whether student engagement will look the same or different this semester compared to last semester. Briody said that while the beginning of the semester may look different for most clubs, by the end much will have returned back to normal.
“I think initially it will probably look a little different as we open in COVID Level Red. However, I remain hopeful that we will move through the Red stage quickly and towards a more normalized campus where we can all engage in person and safely,” Briody said.
Finally, Briody gave a brief overview of what students should expect if they have never experienced a virtual involvement fair.
“It’s really quite simple. All of the participating organizations will have ‘virtual rooms’ where students can meet with representatives and leaders from hundreds of organizations. There will be 3 sessions during which different groups will be available to meet with interested students,” said Briody.