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Annual President’s Picnic tradition persists despite COVID-19 restrictions

Texas Wesleyan University’s annual President’s Picnic moved locations for a second time in a row this time in response to COVID-19 to Zoom.

In August 2019, the welcome-back event moved to the Nick and Lou Martin University Center from the Sid Richardson Building, but for Thursday evening’s event, students logged into Zoom to hear from the university’s clubs, resources and organizations.

The event lasted from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with students jumping into different break-out rooms run by different groups. The event had a total of ten break-out rooms that switched group leaders every 30 minutes.

“I feel like this year’s President’s Picnic was great and very special,” senior marketing major Christine Davis wrote in an email. “Despite the pandemic and the restrictions we are facing, students and staff came together (online) to kick off the new school year. A pandemic can’t take away our traditions and Ramily.”

While Davis misses the in-person interactions, she was glad the digital event offered more convenient access to students not on-campus this semester.

“I enjoyed getting to see people on video chat that I haven’t seen on campus!” Davis wrote. “Some people are at home full time, and it was so special to see their faces and connect.”

At the event, Davis met with people from the Entrepreneurship Club, Programming and Activities Committee (PAC), Alpha Xi Delta, and the newly created Texas Wesleyan Swim Club, but her primary reason for going was for the American Association of Young Women (AAUW).

“As the current president of AAUW, I wanted to get the word out about our organization and invite people to join us for our first meeting,” Davis wrote. “I am very passionate about AAUW, and it was a unique opportunity to share that passion with others. We got four new prospective members, and I’m so excited for them to attend our first meeting via zoom (TBA).”

The Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) is another new organization starting up on campus this semester.

“We’re a Christian community that welcomes people from all backgrounds,” said Jessica Tuggle at the event. “We’re all about loving God, loving our community and reaching the world.”

Tuggle, who has been working with BSM for the last five years down the road at Texas Christian University, wanted to bring the program’s Bible studies, mentorships, community service and mission trips to Wesleyan.

“Texas Wesleyan used to have a BSM,” Tuggle said. “I’m trying to start one back up.”

According to Dr. Dennis Hall, the vice president of Student Affairs and the Dean of Students, the Division of Student Affairs staff has been working for five months to make events like the President’s Picnic happen this semester.

“It’s not going to be perfect, and there’s going to be a period of transitions,” Hall said at the event. “I hope that during this time, we can have open and honest communication.”

According to Davis, the turnout could have been bigger, but she had fun and is thankful to Student Affairs for putting on the event.

“I’m just so thankful to our amazing Student Affairs department for making the picnic happen,” Davis wrote. “It’s been such an uneasy time, and we have such amazing staff and faculty working to create a sense of normalcy and community despite the pandemic. I’m so thankful for our Ramily now more than ever.”

Coordinator for Student Activities Sami Waygood hosted the President’s Picnic and worked to move attendees in between break-out rooms. Screenshot by Hannah Onder
Jessica Tuggle talks to students about Baptist Student Ministries (BSM) at the President’s Picnic. Texas Wesleyan used to have a BSM on campus, and Mendez came from Texas Christian University’s BSM to revive it. Screenshot by Hannah Onder

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Annual President’s Picnic tradition persists despite COVID-19 restrictions