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UTEP organizations plan for a virtual spring semester

UTEP+organizations+plan+for+a+virtual+spring+semester
Illustration by Hugo Hinojosa

The Meeple Board Game Society (MBGS) at UTEP is a recreational club with the goal of facilitating interpersonal relationships among students with tabletop games. Through cards and shared game pieces, the club has established itself as an active and fun organization for tabletop game fanatics. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, MBGS joins the list of UTEP organizations planning to operate remotely this spring.  

“While the club has been and will continue to be active online during the pandemic, MBGS is not planning any in-person events until UTEP’s campus has been reopened to all students,” said Samantha Garcia, a junior history major at UTEP. “We simply cannot ask our members to risk their own health and the health of those around them for recreation, particularly when we have a virtual alternative.” 

As the University resumes operating at a low density level in its recovery matrix, student organizations are taking advantage of tools like Zoom, MineTracker, Instagram and Facebook to interact with members.  

“This pandemic has shown me how essential the online sphere is to our club,” Garcia said.  “While the club has utilized social media and email lists for a long time, the necessary closing of campus has reinforced to us just how important those avenues of communication are.” 

The Student Engagement and Leadership Center (SELC) is working to support organizations this spring by providing as many virtual resources as possible, said Travares Peterson, coordinator of student organizations.  This includes transitioning programs to a virtual format such as the Student Organization Advancement Program (SOAP) and MineTracker 101, among others, to focus heavily on resources and tips that help lead an organization remotely.  

“Registered student organizations, like everyone else, have had to adapt to the new normal we are all working to create,” Peterson said. “It is hard for us to not see student leaders tabling around campus but our students are resilient and they are still finding ways to engage new students and maintain their organization engagement.”  

Another resource available for students is funding through the Student Organization Advancement Fund, Peterson shared, as organizations will be eligible to request funds for support during the spring. A resource that proved to be helpful for MBGS in fall 2020 as it allowed access to virtual games not available for free.  

“Club officers understand that college students often lack financial security, particularly during this pandemic, so we were very hesitant to ask our members to spend their money on games,” Garcia said. “Fortunately, MBGS had enough funds from UTEP to purchase a few copies of the games which we have been able to lend out to members who did not have them so that they were able to participate in game nights.” 

Other organizations like the Rotaract Club, focused on shaping future leaders of the community through local, national and international community service, will continue to utilize tools like Instagram and Facebook to keep members informed. According to president of the UTEP chapter and finance major, Luisa Sanchez, the club has been able to make international connections and collaborate virtually with people from Nepal, India and Mexico states’ like Aguascalientes, Tabasco and Nayarit.  

“I believe having these meetings open to everyone has made a difference during these times of staying at home. We have never had this increase in membership before,” Sanchez said. “Since the pandemic started, we have had an increase of 47% in membership, majority ranging from freshmen to sophomores, giving the club an expected life of at least 4 more years as an active club.” 

The club’s annual in-person “Rotaract Night,” which typically invites college and high school students to learn more about the club, will continue to be hosted virtually as the executive board prepares for another semester online.  

“Every semester we try to have at least one recruitment event for new members,” Sanchez said. “This past semester, due to the pandemic, we had to do it virtually. We talked about the club, the organization, events we have done, and how-to join. We also had time to talk and interact with our current members, and at the end we played ‘Among Us.’ It was definitely a dynamic meeting.” 

Like Rotaract Club, UTEP’s Academic Revival of Indigenous Studies and Education (A.R.I.S.E), which strives to educate the UTEP community on Indigenous cultures, histories, and current events, is also planning to increase its recruitment strategies this semester. 

“We are planning to do more recruitment at the start of the semester,” said Veronica Cruz, rhetoric and composition PhD candidate at UTEP and president of A.R.I.S.E. “The student organization services have done an excellent job in hosting events such as Miner Welcome that provides spaces for student organizations to recruit new members, and we plan to recruit through those events.” 

This year SELC is set to host its annual Miner Welcome from Jan. 18 – 22. This event will be a week-long kick-off to the new semester full of activities and prizes, Peterson said. This includes Virtual Tabling Fairs for both organizations and colleges and a Student Mixer for students to come together and share common interests.  

“Student organizations provide a sense of belonging and help create bonds and relationships that aren’t found by just going to class,” Peterson said. “On-campus has been the main interaction between students, and with those opportunities unavailable, joining a student organization can facilitate that interaction. Organizations are a way to provide those interactions though be it through a virtual format.” 

Anahy Diaz may be reached at [email protected]; @by_anahydiaz on Twitter.   

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About the Contributor
Anahy Diaz
Anahy Diaz, is a bilingual Multimedia Journalism, Political Science and Chicano Studies student at The University of Texas at El Paso. She has helped lead The Prospector, as editor-in-chief, copy editor and multimedia editor by writing and creating news packages. Anahy currently works as an intern for NBC News Los Angeles, and has previously interned with NBC’s Today and Weekend Today. Anahy’s published work can also be seen in Borderzine, KERA News, KTEP, KTSM Channel 9 and KVIA Channel 7. As a first-generation college student, Anahy hopes to join the field of broadcast after graduation covering news, politics, and entertainment.
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UTEP organizations plan for a virtual spring semester