2020 UIndy Family Weekend will be mostly virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions

The 2020 Family Weekend at the University of Indianapolis will be virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. While Family Weekend in years past has allowed students, alumni and their families to participate in activities on campus, this year will include activities on Zoom as well as in-person activities for on-campus students.

According to Vice President and Secretary of the University Lara Mann, pre-registering for these virtual events is important in order to keep track of how many families will be participating. It also allows organizers to help with any technical difficulties and prevent Zoom-bombing, a term Mann used to refer to people entering Zoom calls without prior registration. 

Registration is also heavily enforced for live events for on-campus students to ensure the events follow the guidelines of Phase 1.5 of the university’s reopening plan. Pre-registration is available through the UIndy website as well as through links sent in emails to students and their families.

“We do have people pre-registering, but basically, if you decide 30 minutes beforehand that you want to do it, you hop on the website, and there’s the link,” Mann said. “The thing we need to be careful about for the virtual events is Zoom-bombing, and we have a plan for that as well. We’ve got people monitoring and ready to work on that as well… For the virtual events, we just want families to feel like they can almost be on campus and have some really interesting experiences and substantive experiences.”

Friday night’s activity that kicks off the weekend includes musical bingo on Zoom, according to Mann. Saturday’s activities will begin with a virtual coffee hour, hosted by University President Robert Manuel that allows students and families to participate in an informal discussion.

According to Director of University Events Jeffrey Barnes, Saturday’s afternoon activities will include a political discussion with faculty members, a heritage tour with Dr. Michael Cartwright. There will also be an art tour throughout campus. All of these events will be virtual and partially prerecorded.

Despite in-person events for families having to be canceled or postponed this year due to COVID-19, such as a visit from Bill Nye, Barnes said having to plan events in a virtual format has allowed Family Weekend to reach a larger audience.

“We can reach a much wider audience or people in locations that we couldn’t before, which I think is really exciting,” Barnes said. “It’s a new challenge and as an event person, I find that very exciting that we are forced to think of things in a different way and find solutions to do things in a new and hopefully fun and exciting way.”

According to Mann, having to incorporate a virtual aspect into Family Weekend has opened doors  that allow the university to reach a wider array of people who may not have been able to attend on-campus events in the past.

“I think that we will now have a virtual element to Family Weekend from now on because really we can reach our families across the globe instead of just right here in our backyard, and so, to me, the bright side of all of this is that it has really opened our minds to the quality that you can create with a virtual event,” Mann said. “I think this is here to stay because I feel like if our goal is to welcome as many families, to embrace as many families as possible on Family Weekend, this only expands our footprint, so I think it’s here to stay.”

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