Eckerd College is known by many for its charming atmosphere on the waters of Tampa Bay with fun events throughout the spring semester to create a close community. In light of the closure of campus due to COVID-19, various organizations including Palmetto Productions, Reflective Service Learning, Spiritual Life and Campus Activities are keeping the party going through online events open to all students.
“We have a duty here to have the student body engaged in all these activities. And we're really happy that we have been doing them,” Assistant Director of Palmetto Productions Madeline Morgen, a junior, said.
Within a few weeks after its closure, Eckerd created a new webpage called Eckerd Everywhere with ways for students to stay connected and engaged during the rest of the virtual spring semester. On this page, weekly events were posted on a google calendar and other resources that Eckerd students can reach out to.
“It's important right now that people have some type of practice, some type of beneficial healthy repetitive practice,” Director of Service Learning Ronald Porter said. “In the midst of this they guess [...] a practice that gets at one's creativity so whether that's through yoga, meditation, painting, writing, drawing, singing, you know cooking good foods or whatnot, I think getting into that practice is very helpful to stay present in what's happening.”
Weekly events included meditations, yoga with Porter, academic or career planning sessions, environmental webinars and more. Palmetto Productions and others hope that through these events, the end of this spring semester will feel a little more normal.
“We're just trying to make it as normal as we can,” Palmetto Productions Director of Art and Design Anwen Morgan, a senior, said.
Clubs and Campus Activities
Various clubs and campus organizations have pumped up their social media, including Campus Activities. This allows students to participate in weekly giveaways or other short trivia and quizzes.
The Eckerd College Save Our Seabirds Club posted on their instagram story during the last week of April for students to name a one-legged moorhen that is a frequent visitor of Zeta Pond. The Eckerd College Waterfront also posted this same week calling for students to submit photos or videos for how they “waterfront at home”. While students are physically separated, these small things help to maintain the Eckerd culture and bring students together.
Palmetto Productions has been hosting larger events. On Mondays, Trivia Nights test students’ knowledge about random subjects.
“Our trivia nights have been pretty rocking,” Morgan said. “It's really cool. It's a really fun way to connect.”
On Thursday, April 30, Palmetto Productions hosted Jen Kober for a virtual comedy show. With 15 people logging on, the participants had a lot of laughs.
“We've been trying to reach out to the student body as much as possible,” Morgen said. “But the people that are there, they love it, and they enjoy it and there's always returners. But it's definitely a new challenge that Palmetto has taken on. It’s the first time we've ever done events like this.”
The Virtual Spring Ball on April 25 had a better turn out, with about 65 people joining the Zoom meeting to dance together. Some ate cereal in their kitchen, while others decorated their whole room with colorful lights and art.
“We had our Spring Ball which was a blast. I was boogying all night,” Morgan said. “That was really fun because they encouraged people to stay active. Even though I saw a lot of people were just sitting in their bed grooving, a lot of people also did their decorating and got ready. It gives them something to look forward to.”
On May 7, an Eckerd Talent Show Series was on YouTube for any Eckerd student willing to showcase their musical talents. To finish off the semester, a Virtual Kappa Karnival was held on May 9. Although Palmetto Productions is still trying to figure out how this event will take place, they say that it will involve fun outdoor activities over Zoom.
“That’ll be the last hurrah of the spring semester,” Morgan said.
increased restrictions on social gatherings have led Eckerd’s Center for Spiritual life to get creative and adapt new virtual services to continue the support of all students.
“Students are resilient, we can do this, we need to do it together. So, a sense of community is important,” Director of the Center for Spiritual Life and Chaplain Doug McMahon said.
Eckerd’s Center for Spiritual Life continues to support Eckerd’s students through virtual weekly meditations and other virtual events such as the Virtual Easter Egg in April. Details about upcoming events and contact information can be found on the Center for spiritual life’s website or on their Instagram.
One of the events is a virtual spring Peace Pilgrimage. This event is typically held in early May. Students gather and walk to downtown St. Petersburg stopping at various places along the way and meeting people based on a predetermined theme each year. This year the Peace Pilgrimage will continue in a virtual format. Communities leaders and faith leaders will join virtually to discuss how to stay connected.
The InterVarsity club has been hosting virtual bible studies, one-on-one meetings and prayer meetings through their own google hangout group chat. All students are welcome to visit regardless of if they are religious or not.
“We are always welcoming new people even if you aren’t sure if you're a Christian, or spiritual in any way we just want to provide like a friendly supportive community right now,” InterVarsity staff member and alumni Camille Harkenrider said.
To keep students engaged in service, the Reflective Service Learning (RSL) Office has allowed students to complete virtual RSL hours. Students can find many resources on their google site to learn how to complete various service opportunities.
Porter stresses that now is an especially important time to help communities through service, even if it is not face to face. The RSL Office will be constantly adding to the list of opportunities.
“It's a different type of service,” Porter said. “I've heard some people talk about how service is supposed to be hands on. But honey we're in a plague. And I think sometimes people don't quite understand what that means. It's not something that you can see, touch, taste or feel until it's in you and then it's got you. So, we have to mitigate what our risk is.”
COVID-19 has presented Eckerd students with new challenges of leaving the special place by the water and learning from home, but organizations like Palmetto Productions and the RSL office have been working hard to keep students engaged.
“Students are really worried about what the future holds, and what's going to happen next in the fall semester, since everything is so up in the year with the virus so keeping you excited for the future and that people care about you. You're not forgotten, you're not just doing your online class work and then going to bed to watch Netflix. Someone's out there,” Morgan said.