For Mackenzi Hockensmith, president of Temple University’s Public Relations Student Society of America, the prospect of her club hosting in-person events this fall is unlikely.
“I highly doubt it,” Hockensmith, a senior public relations major, said. “There’s too many hoops to jump through to do stuff with Temple the way things are right now.”
In light of campus restrictions on gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student organizations are working to keep members active and engaged while planning events. For some organizations the transition is easier, as meetings and key speakers can transition to a virtual space while others deal with the potential of canceled events.
Students are not allowed to hold general body meetings in the student center or any other academic building on campus, The Temple News reported. Any in-person event may be canceled with last minute notice if local and state government regulations change.
Hockensmith said there has been some initial success in PRSSA’s attempts to recruit new members.
“We’ve actually seen a lot of people reaching out trying to find out new information for the past few months,” she said.
PRSSA plans on hosting all meetings and events virtually for the duration of the semester with the possibility of doing so in the spring if necessary, Hockensmith said. They’re working on inviting guest speakers and hosting professional development workshops for members as well via Zoom.
Despite the early interest in PRSSA, Hockensmith is concerned about maintaining engagement going forward.
“I’m a little worried,” she said. “I do feel it’s important we create that sense of community and make our members really feel included and that they hopefully get something out of every meeting.”
Temple’s InMotion Dance Team, a jazz, contemporary and hip-hop dance organization, uses virtual rehearsals to attract new dancers, Lindsey Garnhart, a junior dance major and co-captain of the team, said.
“We’re definitely attracting members at a slower rate than normal but it’s definitely exciting seeing new people come in every year,” Garnhart said. “Normally we get like 60 people at auditions and so far we know about 15 to 20 people auditioning.”
InMotion plans to use videos to promote their dancing rather than host larger events, which they typically do annually. Depending on how many members they attract this fall, InMotion may restart their outreach again in the spring with more auditions.
“Our expectation is that we’ll be online for the rest of the semester and maybe spring,” she said. “We did plan for being in-person optimistically but I don’t know if that’s possible.”
Active Minds, an organization that promotes good lifestyle habits and stress relief activities, has looked for more creative ways to keep students engaged. They’ve hosted yoga sessions and brought therapy dogs to the Howard Gittis Student Center for a “de-stress and pet” event before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mike Manieri, president of Active Minds, wants to keep members involved even if in-person gatherings aren’t possible.
“We’ve been trying to create activities that aren’t just staring at a computer screen but more interactive and hands-on,” he said. “A lot of our meetings will involve materials that we’ll ship out to students in our general body so they can participate.”
They plan to host a virtual painting session and send out supplies to their members prior to the event. Another hands-on event includes a competition in which they challenge their members to make the best sandwich out of the ingredients available to them in their homes.
“It’s all about keeping people engaged and finding ways to do what we normally do but in a manner that’s safe and enjoyable for all our members,” Manieri said.