As campus events go virtual, demand soars

When the student leadership team of the Campus Activities Board was planning events for this fall, they knew it was going to be unlike anything they’d ever done. 

With restrictions from COVID-19 limiting the size of in-person events, everything needed to be re-imagined in a virtual format. There was no telling how students would respond to this new platform, so senior elementary education major Alyssa Anderson, who serves as CAB’s social change and community director, was shocked and excited when she saw nearly 200 students had signed up for the first event.

On Aug. 28, CAB hosted an entirely virtual Sip n’ Paint guided art session with local artist Kim Blakesley. Blakesley is the owner of Cedar Valley Art and Wine and a UNI alumna. 

“There were way more people than we thought would sign up for the first event of the year, but we had a blast,” Anderson said. “We decided to do the Sip n’ Paint because it was a fun activity that we have done in the past that could still be done online.” 

Students registered online and picked up a bag stocked with paint, brushes and a canvas from the Student Life Office in the days leading up to the event. Students were responsible for providing their own beverage to drink during the event as well. Then, at 7:30pm, students were supplied with a Zoom link to connect with Blakesley.  

Participants were encouraged to turn on their cameras so they could show off progress on their paintings, allowing a sense of connection despite the physical distancing. As they followed Blaklesley’s instructions to create a night sky from the comfort of their homes and dorm rooms, students submitted questions via the chat section on Zoom that Blakesley could answer live. 

The end result was a beautiful variety of night sky paintings that students proudly held up to their cameras. Rather than taking a group picture with the results, participants were encouraged to take a picture and post it on social media with the hashtag “unicabsnp”. While it wasn’t a typical event, Anderson feels that it went off without a hitch.

“We’ve had quite a bit of involvement from students so far, and I can only see the numbers going up.” Anderson said. “I am very proud of my team for all of the hard work they have put into making this semester as fun as they can for our fellow students.”

And the fun’s not over. Despite the pandemic, planning is underway for more events.

“Lucky for us, we have some amazing people on the leadership team,” Anderson said. “We were able to work together to brainstorm some awesome ideas that can happen virtually for our students to enjoy.”

The next event planned is a virtual game night using Kahoot! and bingo via Zoom tonight, with prizes such as UNI gear, Apple AirPods and a portable speaker up for grabs. Interested students can visit https://studentlife.uni.edu/cab-registration to register for upcoming events.