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OU organizations embrace new year, omicron challenges

With the new year in full swing, several organizations and volunteering opportunities that have ceased operations because of the pandemic at Ohio University are planning a comeback in 2022. 

Organizations, both student-led and volunteer, had to face many challenges in the past two years from difficulties with student involvement, virtual and hybrid transitions and the implementation of new guidelines that are supposed to keep group members safe. 

Josh Gruenke, associate director of student activities in the Campus Involvement Center, said despite all of its challenges, new organizations have also sprung from the pandemic and found ways to flourish. 

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted a number of student organizations, particularly with regard to in-person meetings and activities, many have found ways to thrive,” Gruenke said in an email. “There have been new organizations formed every semester that have been dealing with COVID that have allowed students to build community around a shared interest or passion.”

Particularly, Gruenke said one group grew its enrollment because of the pandemic during a time when outdoor activities were the safest way to operate. 

“One notable group was OU H.I.K.E., which has grown its membership by organizing outdoor hikes for the OU community during a time when outdoor programming was the safest option for gathering,” Gruenke wrote in an email.

With many students returning for second semester and a new emerging class coming this fall, the university is looking forward to seeing an increase of campus and community involvement from students this year.

Alongside the help of GivePulse, an online platform OU uses to connect students with local partners and create opportunities for service in the community, the university has been able to increase student involvement despite halting due to the pandemic. 

Barb Harrison, assistant director of community engagement and experiential learning on campus, said the work she does centers around getting students involved inside and outside of OU. 

“I am a part of the Center for Community Engagement, and we are responsible to help connect students to community partners and to opportunities that they utilize for many requirements,” Harrison said. “Every student should definitely get involved, but I think it really makes a difference in the students' experience when they can step outside the classroom and figure out, ‘Where am I going to school?’ ‘What is this place about?’ and we learn from it as volunteers. The community really benefits, too, so it's definitely a great partnership.”

With strong student support, the Associated Press Sports Editors Association, or APSE, is planning a roaring return this year with planning and recruitment meetings in the works. 

Matthew Cacciato, executive director of the AECOM Center for Sports Administration, is APSE’s faculty adviser and has been working with the group since before the pandemic in 2019. He said the student organization was not operational for quite some time, but its members are gearing up for an active year in 2022. 

“So, I know that they clearly want to maintain some of the traditions that they have had in place,” Cacciato said. “We'll kind of get into that when we meet hopefully as early as next week. It's my clear understanding they want to move ahead and reestablish some of the events that have made them as successful as they have been over the years. I think that … having a strong national presence makes it easier for the students, and it's my hope that we can take that guidance and gain momentum back.”

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