SAB leaders reflect on COVID challenges

Freshmen Emily Burkhardt and Indigo McClain sing a duet at the All-You-Can-Sing event. Masks and social distancing were required at the outdoor event. Photo by Bidan Yang

Socially distanced lines formed to get into the Baldwin Auditorium as hundreds of students prepared themselves for the Welcome Back Comedian, Ryan Kelly

Student Activities Board President Jessica Rood thought starting the semester with little planning would never end in such success. Planning events for hundreds of students has been a struggle for the organization, but the group said the student response has been exciting. 

Rood said when she first heard about the COVID-19 regulations being implemented in the fall, she was not looking forward to the challenge. 

“I distinctly remember [a] chair meeting with Madeline [Hensley, former SAB vice president] and she just [said], ‘Jessica … You gotta do it.’ And then my committee ended up spending the most money on our event, so it was a big turnaround,” Rood said. “We were in uncharted territory, so I was a little nervous.” 

Jaycee Mudd, vice president of SAB, said her experience last spring was a little different. SAB usually plans its events a semester in advance, so when students were sent home last spring, it put all planning on hold.

At the time, Mudd was in charge of publicity for the organization, so it was a waiting game to be able to publicize any events. 

“I mean, this is what we do. You pour your heart and soul into these events until you’re ready,” Mudd said. “The thought of planning them and they’re not going to happen or the University suddenly having to shut that down was scary, so it was hard to get started back up. But once we did, we hit the floor running and things turned out really well.”

Rood and Mudd said former SAB President Josh Jay and Hensley were incredible, and they were the driving force that the organization needed to be able to chart this unknown territory.

“They were going to fight for every single one of us. They were ready to take it all,” Mudd said. “I think that was probably the biggest thing we were willing to try more than anything and just adapt as we needed.” 

One of the biggest events hosted by SAB this year was their welcome back comedian, Ryan Kelly. Mudd said it was daunting to plan an event with a crowd of 200 people in one room. 

Overall, that event turned out to be a success with socially distanced lines and seating. The Baldwin Auditorium, where the comedian performed, was filled to a COVID-safe capacity. Rood said they had to end up turning students away from the event, and while that is unfortunate, it is a good indicator of student interest in events.

SAB also put on a series this year called “Take and Make,” where crafts were pre-packaged so students could take the craft home and do it on their own. 

“I’ve been shocked by the amount of participation, especially at our craftier events,” Rood said. “People could just come by, grab it and then go do it in the comfort of their dorm room or with their friends on The Quad. It allowed them a lot more freedom. We had a really great turnout for that.”

Senior Savannah Bietz and freshman Kayla Cunningham paint pumpkins at SAB’s Harvest Festival. The event had minor changes from previous years to combat COVID-19. Photo by Bidan Yang

Mudd said even at SAB’s in-person events, the Truman community has been really understanding. Students are patient when asked to wait, sanitize or sign waivers, Mudd said.

Even within the organization itself, SAB has been understanding of pandemic-related stressors. Members of SAB recently attended a mini-retreat where one of the topics of discussion was mental health. 

“I feel like we have a really great culture within SAB but also trying to reach out to students, especially since we got sent home and a lot of us were separated from our friends and our support groups,” Rood said. “SAB, it’s been a huge lifesaver for me, a reason to get out of bed and interact with people and the events that we planned. We really do try to hit as many people in Truman’s campus as possible.” 

Mudd said she thinks students see the environment SAB creates and it makes people more willing to participate in events. The in-person events give students the chance to safely interact with people inside and outside their pod. 

Looking back on the year, Rood said she wishes she would not have been so scared early on. 

“I wish I would have had more faith that we were going to do it and do it well because clearly, we have,” Rood said. “We’ve exceeded so many expectations.” 

Rood said she is proud of all the organization has been able to accomplish this year, and she is excited about next fall. 

As of right now, SAB is erring on the side of caution when it comes to the COVID-19 regulations at next fall’s events. Mudd said activities will probably look similar to what the University has seen this semester, but SAB is willing to adapt to new restrictions as the administration releases them.