A UNL student fights back the onslaught of pool noodles during the Battle of Zama reenactment on Oct. 31, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In an era of social distancing, clubs and extracurriculars seem far from reach. Student leaders, such as Ad Club President Brenna Doherty, however, are pushing forward with their glasses half full.

Thanks to this mentality, students can still expect a variety of activities and events to indulge in this fall. Clubs and extracurriculars have adapted to provide students with opportunities to become involved, both in person and virtually.

Doherty said the club will change to an online platform this coming semester. Ad Club typically visits local advertising agencies, hosts a variety of professional speakers and helps students grow in their professional skills.

Instead of meeting in large groups or going on tours, Doherty said Ad Club will focus on providing online resources for students. These will include publishing blogs, sharing videos on social media and reaching out to advertising companies across the country to include people from different industries and embark on virtual tours.

“I feel like it will be a really good time for the club to kind of reinvent itself,” Doherty said.

While Ad Club has traditionally held a freshman and sophomore audience, Doherty said they hope this new online resource model can engage every class and grow its membership.

Doherty said she worries that many college students have an out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude that will only be enhanced with online platforms. Her greatest fear for the coming semester is members struggling to engage with one another and dedicate time to extracurricular activities.

“I worry not just for our club but for clubs across campus that you’re not seeing because you’re not engaging with other club members in classes, and you’re not seeing the posters around campus,” Doherty said. “I worry that some students won’t remember to get involved or won’t engage in it as much as they would have under normal circumstances.”

While Doherty might face difficulties in student involvement, others will be challenged by engaging the community through their events.

Melissa Griffith Phelps, assistant director of student organizations for Student Involvement, said the university is planning on hosting traditional campus events, such as club fairs and welcome events, in a safe way for students to enjoy. She said each event will need to follow the health and wellness guidelines from the university, along with those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to maximize safety.

“Our main goal when hosting events will always be the students’ safety,” Griffith Phelps said.

Griffith Phelps said all event plans are tentative as new guidance may be released in the coming weeks. As of right now, students will have to remain 6 feet apart and utilize facial coverings in all indoor spaces, as well as outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible.

Students will still be able to attend the annual club fair on Aug. 26 at the Nebraska Union Plaza and Meier Commons, where student organizations can promote their groups to incoming students. While the final physical setup is still being determined, Griffith Phelps said tables will be spaced apart with marked physical distancing for students who choose to visit them. 

Reshell Ray, associate director of East Campus programs for Student Involvement, said students can also expect the East Campus Welcome to take place on Aug. 27. Ray said this event provides an opportunity for student organizations that are primarily agriculture related or housed on East Campus to promote their group as well as welcome students back to campus. 

The event will take place inside the newly remodeled Nebraska East Union as well as in outdoor space to accommodate with physical distancing guidelines. Traditionally, this event has occurred as a picnic, but with the recent regulations, Ray said the picnic aspect might not happen.

“Even though it may look different, it will be memorable,” she said.

Ray has also served as the advisor for Campus NightLife since starting the group in 2008. First-year graduate student Lilly Nguyen serves as the new graduate advisor for the group. Nguyen said Campus NightLife, part of Student Involvement, provides free, late-night activities for college students that appeal to both extroverted and introverted students.

Most Campus NightLife events require large spaces to accommodate the student population. Nguyen said they will implement social distancing by limiting the amount of students in attendance, increasing space or moving outdoors and limiting the amount of physical interaction between students.

However, with the new challenges, Ray said Campus NightLife is determined to still provide students with opportunities.

“It is our goal to ensure that there are events happening,” Ray said.

The first 2020-21 event Campus NightLife will host will be the Back to School Bash on Aug. 28 in the Nebraska Union Plaza. The event will feature a caricature artist, a giveaway and a DJ. 

All of the events Campus NightLife holds, as well as many others, will require students to utilize the NvolveU event pass. Students will be asked to download their passes on their phones in order to attend different events. Ray said this allows Campus NightLife to track who comes to events in case someone in attendance tests positive for COVID-19.

Along with large campus events adjusting to social distancing guidelines, student organizations are undergoing a variety of changes to provide the campus community with various opportunities as safely as possible.

Anna Lockhart, president of campus a cappella group Pitch Please, said she’s unsure whether the group will be able to perform outside of regular practice sessions.

Each year, the 18-person group hosts a fall show to raise money in hopes of travelling to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Lockhart said they will have to be flexible and understanding of the changing circumstances with the possibility of needing to limit guests at performances or move off campus.

“I’m not too worried about the regulations that might be in place because I think we’re all going to be pretty resilient and work through our issues and still be able to have a great year,” she said.

Lockhart said she’s more concerned about the group’s ability to practice together. She said it will have to be something they become accustomed to.

“If we do have to be 6 feet apart in this room, and we’re all spread out within the room, it might be difficult for us to hear the other parts that we need to hear in order to have the right blend so it sounds like it’s supposed to,” she said. “It’s really learning how to listen and change how we work.”


If matters take a turn for the worse, Lockhart said they will continue to utilize Facebook and other social media platforms to share their content. This summer, the group individually recorded videos of music the singers planned to share at their spring show. A member of the group then blended each of the videos to create a single presentation.

“It was a great way for us to still share our music with the different circumstances,” Lockhart said. “It was unfortunate because we lost half a semester being able to share music with each other, but it was a great way that we could come together.”

Regardless of how the fall semester pans out, student leaders across campus are dedicated to providing a memorable semester for incoming students. As Nguyen continues to plan activities for Campus NightLife, she said she will focus on thinking outside of the box to engage her peers.

“If we play by the guidelines and we follow all the protocols … I’m sure it will still be a memorable experience for these students,” she said. “I don’t want this pandemic to take away anything, especially for freshmen if they want to experience their first semester as a college student.”