Tuesday Apr. 13th brought the celebration of Furman Engaged, the annual day off from classes to make time for student presentations. Typically, there are presentations and posters across campus that students can attend freely while listening to their peers present. However, this year’s Furman Engaged looked different.
Senior Elise Dudley has always appreciated Furman Engaged, and missed the usual opportunities that it brings. “I have loved Furman Engaged in past years… when it was an in person and interactive experience.” Dudley mentioned how in previous years she “met so many interested members of the Greenville community,” because many presentations were open to the public. Dudley enjoyed running around all day to different friends’ presentations or performances. As hectic as it could be, Dudley said, “I loved having a platform to talk about things I’ve invested time and energy into, and learn how to communicate those things in a way that people can easily understand and absorb.”
However, COVID-19 disrupted this year’s activities and forced Furman to reconfigure how the entire program works in order to minimize contact and continue practicing social distancing. If a presentation did not take place via a synchronous Zoom session, then it was recorded and presented asynchronously. Additionally, students’ posters displaying their research or internship experiences were mounted throughout various locations on campus, only this year the presenter did not join their poster.
Dudley was thankful for the opportunity to share her undergraduate thesis and research from her capstone sustainability class, but was disappointed in the lack of interaction with attendees.
“I don’t have that interactive part of the experience where I get to engage people in conversation, which is different,” she said. “There’s something about being able to give a presentation in person and have the opportunity for people to come up to you afterwards and make those connections, which is something that doesn’t happen in a virtual format.”
At one point, the website housing all of the asynchronous presentations crashed and would not allow anyone to download and view video presentations, which brought more frustration to students using the different format. Dudley knows many of her friends who worked hard on their presentations only for them to be inaccessible to attendees.
“It just feels sort of silly to go through this whole process of uploading them, because I haven’t actually spoken to anyone who’s watched or read any presentations I’ve been involved with,” Dudley admits. “It’s just out in the ether.”
Even with the technical issues and different format, students still enjoyed the chance to support their peers’ hard work by watching their presentations. Sophomore Z Bekemeyer attended several exhibitions.
“It has been a fun experience all things considered! Obviously, having presentations in person would be more engaging, but it has been super interesting to read through peoples abstracts and look over their posters!” said Bekemeyer.
Even with technical difficulties and a challenging format change, Furman Engaged still provided students an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and share their research with their peers and professors. Hopefully, next year, students can look forward to in-person presentations and more exciting ways to support their friends.