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Student organizations reflect on transformations a year after the pandemic start

The United States is nearing the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to nationwide lockdowns. Schools across the country abruptly transitioned to remote learning and had to adapt to the virtual landscape last year—including Seton Hall student organizations, which had to develop new ways to operate during remote and HyFlex learning and social distancing.

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(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Pirate Television, the University’s broadcast news station, was significantly affected by COVID-19 and had to completely shut down all its shows filmed in the studio last March. 

Christian Gardener, a junior visual sound media major and executive producer for Pirate TV, said the pandemic made the team aware of different but unique approaches they could take.

“We moved to different online ventures like Instagram Live and Zoom to do special coverage of things over the break,” Gardener said. “We had never imagined we would be doing draft coverage along with the various preview shows that we did over Zoom when major sports returned.”

Gardener said the pandemic gave them more opportunities to interact with students who they had missed before.

“We have been able to include a lot more faces when being remote,” Gardener said. “Unfortunately, much of the studio is not handicap accessible but since doing things remote this past year we have been able to better include those individuals.”

Similarly, Seton Hall Theatre also had to adapt to rehearsals being online.

Madeline Krawchuk, a freshmen theatre major, said the pandemic made it difficult to form connections with cast members virtually, but also made being in-person much more notable —even with a smaller audience.

“It is strange having to perform to smaller audiences,” Krawchuk said. “We have to rely on ourselves to bring the energy to the performance as opposed to relying on the energy of the audience.”

The cast was challenged to work around wearing masks as it took away their ability to emote through facial expression.

“We tried these cloth masks with a plastic window and they fogged within seconds and were almost impossible to breathe in,” Krawchuk said.

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Krawchuk said the cast instead decided to focus more on their body language and vocal inflection to ensure they were delivering lines at their best, ultimately helping them better their craft.

As the pandemic progressed into the summer and then into the new school year, questions surrounding how to get incoming freshmen involved with on-campus activities were a concern for some. 

The Freshmen Studies Peer Adviser program faced this issue head-on as the advisers’ mission is to help freshmen adjust to college. 

Anne Marielle Jerez, a senior and political science major and peer adviser, said she established a strong bond with her students by taking advantage of the online resources available.

Jerez said creating a supportive and welcoming environment is a big component of being a peer adviser.

“The pandemic was able to bring people closer together because there is a want to stay connected with the outside world,” Jerez said. “Trying to make time for calls and just the shared experience of being in a worldwide pandemic really forced that.”

Outreach has been one of the most important factors for preserving student organization on campus, but was a challenge for the Black Student Union (BSU) as difficulties in planning and hosting events arose. 

Patlene Denis, a junior psychology major and vice president of BSU, said that since the organization is so popular around campus, it was troubling to realize that the pandemic would take away from the organization’s normal turnout. 

“When virtual, not only do we have to scale down our events to make it fit the virtual category, such as turning a back-to-school barbecue into a virtual Kahoot conversation of how COVID impacted our summers, but it is also harder sometimes to get attendance,” Denis said.

Despite the challenges, Denis found an upside in adapting to the virtual setting. 

“Overall, no matter how bad things may seem,” Denis said. “This pandemic and the adjustments that all student leaders have had to make, have prepared us, and made me realize that we can make it through and adapt to any situation with each other's help and support.”Mikayla Downer can be reached at mikayla.downer@student.shu.edu.

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