Virtual vs In-person Student Orientations

UBC Studio Okanagan’s Joel Thiessen captures UBCSUO President Ali Poostizadeh welcoming this year’s undergraduate students with a pre-recorded welcome.

Students have always played a pivotal role in the planning of these September events, and they were consulted with extensively given the transition to a different format this yearThe Planning Team, including UBC Studios and AV teams, ensured students were involved behind the scenes as well as on camera, and incorporating their feedback.  

We interviewed two students involved in the planning of the Imagine, Create and Jump Start for their perspectives on how working with IT teams influenced their expectations of the event, and student response to shifting to virtual formats for signature events.

How did the UBC Studios and AV teams work with you and other students to ensure that IMAGINE, Create and Jumpstart embodied the student experience?
Prapti Mallhi - 4th year undergraduate, Philosophy Political Science and Economics 

From my experience, the IT teams focused on personalizing the experience for students and making this a special day for them. They took creative ideas from students and brainstormed on how they could do this, and adapted to changes and modifications based on student feedback. One of the results was including students such as myself in the VIP interviews. Traditionally, VIPs mostly deliver their speech and there isn't too much direct interaction and engagement with the student body.  

Virtual personalization requires collaboration between different departments such as the Student Experience Office and UBC Studios, extensive planning and coordination between the VIPs and students, and time to prepare the students for such an amazing opportunity. Incorporating students into the VIP interviews is an amazing idea as we are able to represent the excitement and curiosity that the student body shares, and we are able to express it on behalf of the current and incoming students. 

Vibhuti Wadhwa, 4th year undergraduate, Economics and Political Science 

Working with the Studio staff has been absolutely fantastic - they have been extremely receptive and respectful of the components us students believe bring the Pep Rally to life. I particularly appreciate that while they take all opinions into consideration, they also discuss the feasibility, time and legal implications early on, in order to maintain cohesion and not let us get ahead and build excessive expectations or demands. This process has provided me a deeper glimpse into the work of Studios and AV.   

Have students become
 more receptive to participating in virtual events now that we are all remote learning? 
Prapti Mallhi: There is large participation from current and incoming students that is really being appreciated. Going virtual is more accessible and inclusive since one does not have to commute anymore, and can attend events from their living room.  

Though we are not in an in-person environment, I believe this term has the potential of providing an enhanced inter-cultural experience: students across the globe will be able to share their homes, their city, their culture and then students from all over the world will finally meet each other in person as we transition back. 

Vibhuti WadhwaVirtual events, on top of virtual meetings, socials, interviews, and classes, is exhausting – the loss of non-verbal cues combined with having to maintain a “virtual on mode” the entirety of the call is tiresome compared to the natural movement of arriving to an event, conversing and moving around, and being able to regulate the energy and presence we invest.  

At a time when many haven’t left their home or neighborhood for months, virtual events are a wonderful element. It’s something you can still discuss and celebrate with your friends, creates memories and visions for the future, and is a nice break from a tedious work meeting. Most students, including myself, acknowledge that virtual events are a temporary method of social interaction and growth, and we are receptive. Do I miss/think about all the events that could have happened in person that I could have gone to with my friends? All the time – but I’m incredibly happy that virtual events continue mitigate a lot of that desire. 

 do you hope new undergrad students will experience from this year’s virtual events and orientations? 
Prapti Mallhi: UBC is doing an incredible job in creating a sense of community and belongingness. I believe all students will be sharing the feeling of excitement and anticipation of what’s in store for the coming year and also for simply being a part of UBC.  

Vibhuti Wadhwa: I can only imagine the level of disappointment and cancellations undergraduates have been dealing with for the past couple of months. When they join the Pep Rally stream on Sept. 8, I hope that they feel excitement, and that their community of leaders, the AV and Studio teams, the Admins, have done all in their capability to make this virtual event as memorable as possible. We’ve done our job if after watching the stream, they feel happy, and eagerly await the possibilities that their undergrad has to offer.