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University organizations adapt to the obstacles of COVID-19 outbreak

The COVID-19 outbreak and its increasing effect on college campuses has taken a toll on many UMaine organizations and events. A few groups, in particular, have been hit hard, with a handful of spring events canceled or changed, forcing them to seriously alter plans as they move forward into the summer. 

All Maine Women, an inclusive honors society for women on UMaine’s campus, has taken precautions to make sure their students and members can still enjoy their experience and participate in everything the honors society has to offer. 

“The biggest change we’ve put in place as of right now has been moving all of our communications, meetings, and events to an online platform, mostly Zoom at this point; we’ve all become experts by now,” President of All Maine Women and fourth-year biomedical engineering student Lauren Ryan said. “This has been kind of tricky to adapt to, but we want to make sure that we’re making the safest decisions for ourselves and our community and it’s our duty to follow the guidelines put in place by the university and the federal government.” 

The honors society also had to move their previously scheduled “tapping” ceremony that was planned for early Spring. Tapping is a form of initiation for new members into the society and is a yearly tradition that had to be altered by the virus outbreak. 

“Just before Spring Break, we made the quick decision to tap the Class of 2021 on Friday, March 13 (initially planned for March 24) so we would be able to do it in person instead of online,” Ryan said. “I really commend the current class of All Maine Women for coming together to make this happen, because tapping is a really special and emotional day for us and the incoming class, and I am glad we didn’t have to miss out on the full experience.”

One collaborative event that took place on UMaine’s campus before the school closed was “Coronamencement,” a celebration organized by many groups on campus to honor the graduating seniors who will not have the opportunity to walk in May of 2020.

“Sophia Palangas planned Coronamencement in less than two days to bring the entire Class of 2020 together. Taylor Cray worked towards organizing volunteers to provide childcare for working parents before the state imposed its ‘Stay at Home’ order,” Ryan said. “Even still, we’re spending time during our weekly meetings to try and brainstorm ways that we can help our community, even though we are all apart now, which I think really speaks to the nature of the organization, and the type of people who represent our campus as All Maine Women.”

Among those also affected is the University of Maine Honors College. The Honors College has also been making changes during the university shift to online instruction and working from home.

“Our primary change has been the transition to remote learning for all of our Honors courses. It has been going well so far, thanks to the hard work of our staff and faculty, as well as the flexibility and intellectual drive of our students,” Honors College Associate Kim Crowley said. “Some other changes have included shifting to remote thesis defenses and canceling some of our signature events like the Honors Celebration and Maine Day Meal Packout. However, despite having to cancel in-person events, we are planning remote initiatives to reach our Honors community and remain connected to one another.”

The Honors College has been working to help advise students and raise awareness of the many available resources the university offers during this time of need. Honors courses, per the closure of the university, have been moved online or altered to fit social distance guidelines, as have Honors-sponsored events like the year-end celebration for graduating seniors. 

“Completing the semester online is challenging, but I am seeing students, faculty, and staff rise up to meet the challenge,” Crowley said. “It is being met with creativity, flexibility, commitment to quality education, and above all else, compassion.”

Crowley advises students who are facing challenges with their coursework or thesis research to be open and honest with their professors and advisors. 

“If their professors are aware of their challenges, the faculty and staff will be better able to serve and support the student,” Crowley said. “We are all here for you!”

All Maine Women and the Honors College are just two of the hundreds of organizations, clubs, programs, departments, sports teams and groups on campus that have had to make adjustments due to the virus outbreak. By continuing to be flexible and by adapting to changing situations, the students on campus are able to participate in their extracurriculars and pursue educational goals despite the circumstances.


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