Student leaders within the Ontario Agricultural College are finding creative ways to maintain community spirit while keeping everyone safe from COVID-19
By Jackie Clark
The Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) is known for the community spirit of their students, the Aggies. The school year is often filled with events, both social and educational, to promote class spirit. This year, leaders within the student body are forced to pivot, and work to promote that same community spirit at a distance, in the face of the pandemic.
For actual classes “for the most part, everyone’s online,” Joshua Moran, president of the Student Federation of the Ontario Agricultural College (SFOAC), told Farms.com. “It’s been different than what we’re usually used to, especially when it comes to the community side of things. A lot of the OAC is usually pretty immersive.”
Even so, many students seem to have moved back to Guelph for the year. “We ran a questionnaire for all our OAC students, and the majority of them are actually back in Guelph,” he explained. Even some first-year students, when residence wasn’t an option, opted to rent a house with friends to form a little Aggie community on a smaller scale.
The SFOAC recently hosted their first virtual event, online trivia, last Friday.
“We’re just trying to do small events like that online to get people involved,” Moran said. They’re also hoping affiliated organizations, such as the Soil and Crop and Dairy Clubs, will continue. These groups tend to organize tours and speaking events from industry experts, to connect more students to members of the broader agricultural community.
For those organizations, students “are still getting involved and getting as many speakers as possible,” he said. “Its an opportunity to do something different and unique despite the situation.”
For example, since talks and lectures are hosted online, “we have the opportunity to get guest speakers for some of our affiliated clubs from farther away,” he added.
The SFOAC is focused on “having that positive outlook and hopefully creating as immersive of an OAC environment as possible despite the circumstances,” Moran says. They will have to wait and see how the year progresses to know whether they will be able to host larger, traditional events, such as the annual Good Times Banquet.
Student leaders are “discussing ways that we can do things differently. … We’re looking to maybe play on the idea of the event,” Moran explained. For example, instead of the traditional weekly Wednesday pub nights, which usually have a theme that students dress up for, the SFOAC is hosting weekly themed photo contests.
The SFOAC is encapsulating the innovative Aggie spirit in keeping a positive attitude as they work to create new ways to promote community within the OAC student body.
“It’s definitely tricky, but I get to work with a really great executive. I told the team this early on … we really have an opportunity to do something cool. And we understand that it’s really hard and it’s not ideal, but what other SFOAC executives had the opportunity to go through this and create from scratch? It’s almost like a blank slate,” Moran said. “Even though it’s not in person and may not be everything you expected it to be, it’s still an opportunity to do something really great and fun.”
Jun Zhang\iStock / Getty Images Plus photo