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Orgs online: Miami clubs adapt to the unexpected

<p>Miami&#x27;s Department of Magical Appreciation, a Harry Potter-focused student org, will have to find ways to survive online just like the university&#x27;s other clubs. </p>

Miami's Department of Magical Appreciation, a Harry Potter-focused student org, will have to find ways to survive online just like the university's other clubs.

With a quiet campus and mandates against large gatherings, Miami’s community looks very different this fall. Many of the university’s clubs have found unique ways to keep their members motivated and participating even with changing regulations. 

Open Fifth, an all-male acapella group, has changed its focus this semester. Derek Cowles, senior finance major and president of Open Fifth, has made adjustments to the group’s usual routine to accommodate the new normal.

Typically, the group prepares for concerts, performances and touring, but this semester, that’s off the table. 

Their focus has shifted after ASG allowed school funding to be used for recording. The group is currently working on recording their third full-length album, set to come out in a few weeks on Spotify and Apple Music. 

They decided to split the group between two music directors in order to stay within the guidelines of 10 people when they are able to meet on campus. Currently, they have been meeting virtually and doing various practices with videos.

“There’s a lot less focus on having to sing together this year,” Cowles said. 

In addition, Cowles wants to use the potential $500 safety equipment budget to provide masks and contact visors to protect the members when they are able to meet on campus. 

“We don’t want to be that one organization that blows it for the rest,” Cowles said. 

Club sports that require in-person practice have also been making adjustments. 

Senior public health major Olivia Branson, president of Miami’s women’s water polo team, remains hopeful amidst the changes. Though the men’s team lost its fall season, the women still hope to scrimmage in the spring. 

Branson records workout videos and swim sets for her teammates to do since they cannot practice together. With many underclassmen members, virtual programming is their only option right now. 

“It’s for their own benefit if we do have a season,” Branson said. “They’ll be prepared to be in the water.” 

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The group has discussed meeting in small groups for the people who are on-campus. Branson thinks it could be beneficial to boost morale and bond the members in Oxford. Without dues, pooltime will not be an option at this point in the semester. 

“I know we all miss being in the water and miss being together,” Branson said.

While most students miss being together, Miami is still trying to provide ways for students to stay involved. 

Miami Activities and Planning (MAP) has changed the way students can connect with each other this semester. Senior Leeann Burczynski, President of MAP, is excited about upcoming events. Events have shifted to a virtual platform as well as social media programming. 

For members of MAP, meetings are virtual on Monday nights. This keeps the members on a schedule, but it is hard to connect like they do in-person. Burczynski incorporates games, shoutouts and check-ins in the virtual space to boost morale.

“The energy and engagement that we get off of each other at meetings and events is infectious, and it is very hard to create that atmosphere virtually,” Burczynski said. 

Though the energy is different, she is proud of the “mappers” for continuing to enhance the Miami experience. 

“It is easy to lose that spark virtually,” Burczynski said, “but the members of MAP are amazing and are very eager to still help our community.”

Even more niche clubs, like the Miami University Astronomy Club, want to maintain member involvement. 

Senior social chair Liz Kroger said the club has decided not to meet in person this semester but has planned virtual programming. The Astronomy Club is planning Google Hangouts with topic presentations, space-related conspiracy nights, movie and game nights. 

“It’s been tough trying to fill every week with activities and finding online activities that we can all be part of without each of us paying money to use some sort of application or game,” Kroger said.

During this unusual time, clubs both big and small have had to find positives within the constant chaos. 

Though Open Fifth was sad to cancel its traditional events, Cowles is optimistic about the group’s album and said it serves as a time capsule of Open Fifth during this time. 

“We’re really just focusing on the opportunities we do have versus the opportunities we’ve lost,” Cowles said. “There’s always something that can be done.” 

Cowles wants to leave something good behind for future members. 

“Being my senior year, my main goal, no matter what the outcome is, is to leave the group better than I found it,” Cowles said. 

The Astronomy Club canceled its spring trip where its members normally observe the stars and hike, but they are still trying to remain positive. 

“We are very social, and we are doing everything possible to provide morale and social support for everyone during this time,” Kroger said.

And Burczynski says, even though things aren’t as expected, it doesn’t mean they can’t be good.

“Regardless if we are on-campus or in our homes,” she said, “we want to be able to provide engaging and memorable opportunities for students to connect and feel at home in the Miami community.”