Patio Jams performance on the Lakeside Patio Stage, Thursday, Jan. 28., 2021. Photo: Jenny Hudak/University of Miami

A plethora of events offers students opportunities to bond

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

A plethora of events offers students opportunities to bond

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
A wealth of happenings and experiences this semester allows students to engage with peers while maintaining health and safety precautions.

There was Donuts with Duerk, a chance to meet Jeffery Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, over a sugary pastry; Patio Jams, a midday Thursday concert overlooking Lake Osceola; a virtual discussion on microaggressions; and a yoga class on the lawn outside Lakeside Village.

And that was just during the first week. 

With the first few days of the spring semester at the University of Miami underway, there already have been a slew of engaging activities for students to consider. And next week there are even more events where students can meet new friends, catch up with old classmates, or find ways to get involved on campus.

Students can join more than 300 organizations that range from the University’s Marine Mammal Rescue Team to service clubs like Big Brothers, Big Sisters. There are groups that cater to fun hobbies like the Anime Club and sports like fencing. In addition, there are media outlets like The Miami Hurricane, UMTV, and WVUM radio.  

“There are plenty of things happening on campus that provide an opportunity for students to engage with one another and with the departments on campus, as well as to be involved with student organizations,” said Renée Dickens Callan, executive director of student life. “It doesn’t look exactly like it did prior to COVID-19, but there are tons of opportunities for students to connect with the University community.”

While all in-person events must be held outdoors and follow safety precautions like wearing masks and physical distancing, dozens of student organizations successfully held programs throughout the fall semester, Callan said. She expects more will do so this spring, as students settle back into classes. She encourages student leaders to work with the Student Activities and Student Organizations (SASO) office, as well as the student-led Committee on Student Organizations (COSO) which can guide them through the process of planning a safe event during the pandemic. A list of guidelines and recommendations is available here.

Greek Life organizations are also allowed to host events on campus, and they are required to follow the same guidelines outlined for all students and student organizations, said Steven K. Priepke, senior associate dean of students and director of student conduct, whose office must approve any Greek-sponsored event.

“Our student organizations and student leaders are working with our staff to continue to find creative ways to engage with their fellow students in the spring semester,” said Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs. “Luckily, our Miami winter weather is an advantage.” 

Ruhi Kabra, a senior neuroscience major and the chair of COSO, said she has been amazed at the novel ways that student organizations are adapting to the pandemic. She was impressed by Student Government’s ability to host fascinating virtual speakers in the fall, as well as Hurricane Productions’ events like Screens on the Greens, which offered outdoor films on the Foote Green about every two weeks (and will continue the viewings this spring semester). She has also been pleasantly surprised by students’ enthusiasm for founding new groups. COSO approved close to 20 new student groups since the fall, and Kabra said that one of them, called UTaal, for classical Indian music enthusiasts, has gained quite a following at its virtual concerts.

“It’s been really amazing to see what student organizations are able to do and to witness what they have accomplished in these extreme circumstances,” said Kabra.

Kerra Masso, chair of Hurricane Productions, said that her organization—which puts on free entertainment events like concerts and other fun activities for the University community—spent the summer brainstorming how it would continue to offer students the same type of experiences even with the pandemic protocols in place. So, the group learned to use QR Codes for a no-contact student check-in at entrances and also figured out how to plan hybrid events—like Trivia Tuesdays, where students can participate in person from the Lakeside Patio as well as remotely.

“We recognize how important it is to engage with students on campus and to make connections, even during the pandemic,” said Masso, who added that the group is trying to offer in-person, virtual, and hybrid events to reach the widest audience possible. “We realized that students needed some type of interaction more than ever, so we have been driven by that idea.”

Student leaders say there’s more to come. Next week Black Awareness Month begins and will include several events like a cookout and opening celebration on Friday at the Foote Green, a Black Art pop-up at the Lakeside Patio, and a day of service later in the month. There’s also the Spring Involvement Fair, which will be held virtually on Tuesday, Feb. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. This will be a chance for all students to learn more about the variety of clubs and organizations operating at the University and to get acquainted with some of their leaders. Pancakes with Pat is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 3 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on the Intramural Fields. There are mindfulness and other well-being offerings throughout the semester, organized by the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center, and Hurricane Productions is currently planning an in-person outdoor Canes Carnival for April 30, the last day of classes.

For additional information about functions on campus, students can search a range of events in their weekly e-newsletter, Ibis News, which is sent to their emails each Wednesday. Information also can be found on the Engage calendar or in the “Happening at the U” section of the University’s weekday newsletter, News@theU. Students can visit the University’s main calendar to seek future events or read more about the campus groups on the online portal Engage.