Ohio Northern University’s Student Senate held its annual Welcome Fest Aug. 9 on the tundra, instead of in King Horn as it had in previous years. Student organizations participated in this event with the goal of getting new members into their groups and maximizing student involvement on campus. Organizations present were from many areas of campus life, such as from multicultural orgs, Greek Life, and Advisory Boards.

The event was quite different from what it had been traditionally, due to social distancing requirements to maximize the safety of the University while simultaneously trying to maintain the fun atmosphere. Tables were placed far enough apart from one another, and students had hands free interactions with those running the tables by using the Ohio Northern University student app. The app allowed them to scan QR codes to show they visited the table and are interested in becoming a part of the org in the future. 

Robert Hiller (Left) and Zachary Wiles (Right) run the table for Amnesty International ONU. Students were able to get information on a variety of campus organizations while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

Senior History major Robert Hiller was running a table for Amnesty International ONU. Hiller chose to participate in this event because he has pride for the organizations he is involved with and wants to showcase them as well as recognizing that being present in events like this is what will lead students, particularly first-year students, to seeing the wide array of ways to be involved at ONU.

Hiller believes that student involvement in organizations is critical for the college experience, as it provides a sense of belonging with one’s peers and is a “worthwhile distraction from the monotony of college life.” Hiller’s advice to those students who are becoming involved is to know your limits on what one can handle. Being available and present in the organizations one is in is more worthwhile than being involved in so many organizations that one has no time for any of them, let alone academics.

Junior Biology major Sydney Parker was the main person to organize this event as the Campus Organizations Secretary for Student Senate. Parker shed more light on the deep thinking and considerations put into this event to make it safe, such as having a specific space for people to walk in, and when someone wanted to speak with an organization table, the person would stand on a marked space on the sidewalk to maintain distance from the tables. 

Parker said there were also sanitizing stations available at several locations at the event. She said that the biggest challenge of this event was not allowing organizations to hand out resources to those interested in person. To combat this barrier all of the organizations were asked to provide them before the event, and these items were bagged beforehand to give to the attendees to minimize contact and remain cautious.

Although Welcome Fest was different than it had been in past years, the goal of showing the diversity ONU has was still central to the event, just coupled with the goal of promoting a healthful environment for those participating. 

Parker’s advice to other organizations that may want to hold a large event in the future is to plan ahead with a layout of the event, along with considering weather for outdoor events. There are specific traffic flows that need to happen with social distancing, so pre-planning the pathways and marking the directions people go with signs is helpful as well. Her last tip is to be creative. She says, “there are ways to work around all of the problems that we are now facing and still be an active part of the student body and embrace our love for ONU!”

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