Since the semester started, organizational life at UTSA has been adjusting to the online platform that has overtaken the campus.
During a social event organized by Kennedy Bustos, social chair of UTSA’s chapter of Active Minds, an organization dedicated to educating others about mental health, creativity was at an all-time high when Active Minds members engaged in a game of Pictionary through Zoom. A funny moment happened when one of the members said, “I am bad at Pictionary; I can’t draw!” Shortly after that statement, the same member proceeded to draw a perfectly detailed DaVinci-like washing machine.
“Washing machine!” everyone yelled in the realms of their square, black boxes.
“When I am planning a social event, one of my biggest goals is to design something casual to get people to come and something that is fun to get people to stay,” Bustos said. Bustos is just one example of a leader finding creative ways to involve her members despite the mandatory online platform organizations must stick to.
However, not all experiences have been as enjoyable as a game of Pictionary. Elaina Suarez, the president of Active Minds, claims that “communication has been the hardest thing in maneuvering the organization itself.” Suarez went on to say that communicating online “can often lead to misinterpretations, and words can be taken out of context.”
One would think there would be no issue in a world with instant communication at our fingertips. Still, there is something about in-person connection that allows for the recognition of facial expressions and hand gestures that cannot be replicated online. Additionally, being in-person with others makes it easier to build friendships and strengthen connections.
During Spring Break, UTSA moved the campus to an entirely online learning format. Consequently, students and organizations received a little taste of what they would have to endure in order to smoothly transition to the online world in Fall 2020. Organizations that might have had trouble with the adjustment to online meetings and events learned to adapt by trial and error, which helped prepare them for the change.
“Initially after Spring Break, when everything got pushed online, the transition was not smooth because we didn’t have the UTSA Zoom account set up,” Lori Embry, vice president of the American Marketing Association, said. “Everyone was all over the place and everything was out of whack. However, over the summer, we were able to get together over Zoom to communicate how to proceed with the organization on an online platform.”
Although organizations had some time to adjust to the change, organizational life will never be entirely compatible with online platforms.
“The most difficult thing is outreach because of the lost opportunities to hold tabling events and promotions,” Mark Joseph Leon, president of the Pre-Law Association, said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have had to think out of the box to pique students’ interests.
“I am very hopeful with the outlook of the organization,” Leon said. “The ability to record meetings is a benefit because they allow accessibility for students who would not typically be able to participate in the organization.”
Organization leaders are learning to understand that the most important thing they can do is take care of themselves first and foremost. As a leader in an organization during the pandemic, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day organizational life without tending to personal needs. Bustos said it best by quoting her favorite saying: “You cannot pour from an empty cup. Organizational leaders need to be mindful of their mental and physical health during this time because putting yourself first instead of the organization is the best way to act as a leader for the members.”
Similar to the operations of professional corporations, boosting morale in UTSA organizations is a critical component in creating an atmosphere that enhances all members’ experiences.
“Using survey polls with the members through the group messaging app called GroupMe is a great way to keep the members engaged by having input on how the organization should carry out tasks and objectives,” Embry said.
Embry notes that getting the members’ opinions on organizational decisions is a great and effective way to boost morale. Another method to boost morale is to have fun activities.
“Having contests every now and then such as a t-shirt design contest where the winner will get a spooky basket is a fun way to keep the positivity flowing throughout the group,” Embry said.
Yes, there are adjustments for UTSA organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic such as finding creative ways to boost morale, caring for oneself and others, and keeping up with communication with members and officers. However, as we can see from that one funny moment of a student underplaying his art skills in a game of Pictionary, organizations at UTSA are finding glimpses of light during these unprecedented times.