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Michigan Tech moves ‘Involvement Zone’ event to campus

Fred Poddig, from left, and Andrew Gryspeerd, members of Four Wheelers of Michigan Tech, talk to first-year forestry student Braden Berridge during the first K-Day event of the year at Michigan Tech University in Houghton on Sept. 11. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the university’s annual K-Day event, where students get a Friday afternoon off to travel to a local beach and learn about campus activities, was held on-campus and divided into several days. (Photo by Garrett Neese, Houghton Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — With COVID-19, student organizations face obstacles both in getting the word out, and in conducting their usual activities.

They got help with the first of those Sept. 11 with Michigan Technological University’s first K-Day event, branded “The Involvement Zone.”

On the usual K-Day, students spend a Friday afternoon at an off-campus site visiting booths set up by campus organizations. With COVID-19 restrictions, Tech instead moved K-Day onto campus and split it up over six sessions, according to The Daily Mining Gazette.

Campus groups set up booths from noon to 2 p.m.; after everything was sanitized, a second set of groups came in from 3 to 5 p.m.

“Everything’s gone really well,” said Rochelle Spencer, assistant director of student leadership and involvement. “People have been really great at following the social distancing expectations and still meeting different organizations and learning about how they can get involved.”

This year also added a virtual component, where club representatives on Zoom talk with interested students.

This year’s sessions had 25 student groups; the subsequent ones will have 20, as classes will still be going on.

Clubs reported close to the same level of interest in their booths as at regular K-Days.

“We’ve had lots of interesting people,” said Clare LaLonde, a fourth-year student with Michigan Tech’s chapter of Circle K International. “The first-years seem really eager to join.”

For in-service activities, the group spreads out, uses hand sanitizer and wears gloves, LaLonde said.

While the club is still trying to do in-person activities, about half so far have been online, LaLonde said.

“It’s different, but I think we’re still getting the same amount of service in,” she said.

Online activity has included Freerice, where correct trivia answers translate to donations for food, and Color a Smile, where they print off coloring paper, then send the finished drawings to groups in need of cheering up. Fourth-year student Sarah Anderson has also been tutoring local children over Zoom.

“I do it a couple times a week, and it just allows me to help the kids in the community,” she said.

The MTU Pep Band actually saw more interest, which president-in-training Alissa Richardson attributed to the limits on band camp and the glut of orientation events that had taken place at the same time.

For rehearsals, the band spreads out from the back half of the Rozsa Center stage to the back row. Everyone who isn’t currently playing a wind instrument has to wear a mask.

Although there aren’t football games to play at, the band has been staying sharp with intramural games. The next day the band was scheduled to play at a cornhole tournament. They will also be playing for Tech’s e-sports team.

“We’re all really excited about that one,” Richardson said.

They’re also making their own events. On Tuesday, two members played tennis at the courts on Garnet Street while the band played for them.

Ava Crago, a first-year biological sciences student, was one of the students stopping by the band’s booth.

“I’m pretty introverted, so I don’t get out a lot,” she said. “I’ve been trying to make a point of getting involved in more stuff.”

Along with band, she was also interested in esports and a mechanical engineering club.

Tech’s Four Wheelers club had a booth in front of a backdrop of 4x4s.

Turnout may have been slightly smaller due to the smaller scope of the event, said fourth-year club member Fred Poddig.

The group spreads out in camp chairs in a parking lot while wearing masks for club meetings, said fourth-year member Andrew Gryspeerd. The group also wears masks and washes its hands regularly when out on wheeling runs, Gryspeerd said.

“We try to put people who live in the same house together in vehicles, so we don’t have contamination there,” he said.

Braden Berridge, a first-year forestry major, was interested in joining the club. Seeing all the student organizations on display had been helpful, he said.

“I haven’t been able to get out much, so it’s a good opportunity to come out and see the clubs,” he said.

Tech’s Mind Trekkers team held live demonstrations for the crowd, including a liquid nitrogen explosion that sent water shooting out of trash cans.

The team normally goes to local schools and also outside the area, which has been scuttled because of COVID. Instead, the club is giving demonstrations over Zoom.

Mind Trekkers member Phillip Cauley, a fourth-year student, said it had been a productive day.

“They love seeing the demonstrations and everything,” he said. “They were very interested in all of it. We got a lot of people who are looking forward to working with us in the future.”

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