Faculty and students put creative effort into making the virtual year at the OAC a good one
By Jackie Clark
Back in September, Farms.com connected with student leaders from the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) at the University of Guelph, to get their thoughts on the year to come.
Students of the OAC, Aggies, knew they’d need to find innovative ways to connect and maintain community spirit while keeping classmates safe and receiving most of their education virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the semester winding down toward finals, Farms.com checked in to hear what the experience was like.
Online learning was definitely challenging for students, Joshua Moran, outgoing president of the Student Federation of the OAC (SFOAC), told Farms.com.
“On the other hand, we got to see a lot of really cool things. There was a lot of opportunity from a teacher standpoint to get guest speakers in from all over the place, it wasn’t just restricted to who was on campus,” he explained. “So, that was really neat. And a lot of teachers stepped up in a lot of ways to make things unique.”
The students and SFOAC executive also went above and beyond to adapt community events to virtual formats.
“Capturing the heart of these events and recreating some of the spirit was our main goal, and I think we found a certain degree of success,” Moran said.
The annual Goodtimes banquet is one such example.
“It’s one of our biggest events of the year, and we managed to hold that in a virtual format, and it was very successful,” he explained. “It’s kind of cool to think that our Goodtimes that we did got recorded and can be saved” for posterity.
When students are able to be on campus, Aggies host pub nights with themes every Wednesday. This year, the SFOAC asked for themed photo submissions and winners collected spirit points for their Aggie year.
Many students are looking forward to being able to safely gather in person again soon, Moran said.
“The Aggies are a pretty spirited bunch, and that interaction is half of what being an Aggie is, that community aspect and togetherness of it all,” he explained.
Next year’s SFOAC executive team hopes to warmly welcome the class of 2025, and also the class of 2024 who they weren’t able to greet fully this past year, given the circumstances.
However, the online format helped some students get more involved in the OAC, Moran said. “You have such a wide reach when things are online. So, we ended up getting students from programs that typically don’t participate as much in the OAC events.”
Moving forward “we have one of the most diverse and inclusive executives we’ve had, so that’s something that we hope can carry forward to next year,” he added. “I think everyone’s getting ready to get back into the swing of being in-person a little bit more and having those in-person interactions.”
Students hope that the 2021-2022 school year can contain a safe mix of in-person and virtual events.
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