Student Activities rises to the challenge of the fall 2020 semester

Sarah Guzzo, director of Student Activities, alongside her student staff, Off the Hook, have hosted many social events this semester. Many of these events have been discussed in the Community Section of the Marlin Chronicle this year. In an interview with Sarah Guzzo, she reflects on this very different and difficult semester. 


Q: Student Activities had to make many changes to their events this year. What do you think has been the most difficult or most dramatic change that you have had to make? 


A: …I think [the most] difficult [change] is campus traditions that students so look forward to. We try to continue the traditions during the pandemic but if the essence of that event is completely changed where it doesn’t make sense to do it social distance style or virtually, we try to hold off and see if there is another time that we would be able to do that or just give us more time to create something that would be actually memorable for the students…It’s difficult to go through this semester and not have those traditions…It’s been difficult knowing the potential that this office has outside of COVID-19 and doing our best to host things in a way that would be memorable and still fun for our students. The most dramatic change has been the decrease in the events that student organizations have hosted…There are more tasks that need to be accomplished, more plans that need to be accomplished in the event request process because of COVID-19…Those who have hosted have done a wonderful job. 


Q: How did you prepare your team for this very different semester?


A: …My Off the Hook staff…throughout the summer [came up] with event ideas and links and resources to how other events are being planned during COVID-19 so we could get the juices flowing. During their interviews, I asked for event ideas and every student came prepared with a COVID-19 alternative. The students were so eager to get back so they were already thinking of alternatives and how to operate within the guidelines. We went through training and a lot of that focused on event-planning within the COVID-19 guidelines and reviewing the guidelines, but as for preparing them through each event, it’s just at the initial planning stages. They’ve been encouraged to ask themselves the questions: “How can I do this six-feet apart?” “How can we make this event work and will it still be fun if we have to be distant?” We have had in-person events, like Grocery Bingo…other events have been modified like the Kickball Derby…and that was still an awesome event…Getting [the team] in the mindset of thinking creatively and how things can be done six-feet apart but also utilizing their resources and creating virtual or hybrid events.


Q: What event do you think was the most well received by the campus community?


A: Definitely Grocery Bingo. We had the first one and people came by the office the next day asking when the next one was. Typically it’s only one per semester, but we were like “Alright let’s do it again!”…The Bingo Nights are fun and we definitely have a competitive bunch on campus, so that keeps them coming back and hoping to win those prizes


Q: How will next semester be different than this one in terms of Student Activities and campus life? How will they be similar?


A: I mean we are still planning on having in-person, virtual and hybrid events…As far as anything changing, what went on this semester was doable. We are definitely accepting the challenge of encouraging student organizations to increase their presence on campus with their events. We are looking at different ways to make the event registration process a little less cumbersome but still reaching the goal of being safe…so we are looking at logistic things. As far as the guidelines and how activities are run, it will be very similar in the spring.


Q: What is one event that you and your team planned this semester that you are very proud of? 


A: I think the Homecoming Week went really well and the Halloween Week went really well. Those two stick out in my mind because we had something planned every single day for a week. So it’s a little  daunting to have something planned every day of the week but we were able to provide in-person events…the events [I cherish] are the ones that were in-person. The students are craving those in-person activities and to be able to pull those off successfully and to make it fun while still maintaining that distance made a proud moment for us


Q: Student Activities has done an excellent job at adapting to this odd semester.What is one big success that you feel accurately reflects on the efforts of the office?


A: My student staff has been amazing this semester. It is easy to get worn down especially when you have ideas and those ideas get squashed by the CDC guidelines or could be totally changed, but they have been a strong team this semester. They have gone through a lot of loopholes and a lot of plans A, B, C, D, in order to plan their events but I think that we had an event every week, if not multiple times this week. We had a pretty full schedule and…made sure that there were activities and engagement opportunities for their peers. I think the success story for this semester…is that my Off the Hook staff just went with it and ran with it…

By Lauren Faulkner