Ephventures adjust training schedules, plan for fall

Lucy Walker

As the spring semester nears its end, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the coming academic year remains unclear, making plans for first-year orientation programs uncertain. Ephventures organizers have been forced to push off their planning until a decision is made regarding the fall semester, which President Maud S. Mandel will announce by July 1.

Spring training for groups, including Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First Years (WOOLF) and Where Am I? (WAI), the two largest Ephventures, has been canceled. Nevertheless, some groups have held virtual meetings to discuss potential options for the fall and facilitate leader introductions.

Student directors of WOOLF Thomas Eilersten ’21, Duncan McCarthy ’21 and William Ren ’21 sent an email to incoming WOOLF leaders about logistical planning. The email addressed the uncertainty of the situation but laid out some potential options such as “having WOC related day-trips” or having “virtual trips.”

The WOOLF student directors also organized virtual meetings in which students leaders could get to know each other over Zoom. Split into groups of 10, leaders could participate in activities set by the program directors before talking to each other one-on-one in individual meetings. “Even if WOOLF doesn’t happen, we hope that you can make some new friends with your amazing peers,” Ren wrote in an email to the leaders.

Tracy Finnegan, assistant director for the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA) and organizer of the Leading Minds Ephventure, held a Zoom meeting with returning leaders to discuss future planning and programming. “Our next step is to bring our new leaders into the conversation so they are a part of the process,” Finnegan said. “Our priorities are to identify the most valued parts of our program and strategize so we are able to adapt to changes in the schedule if necessary.”

WAI organizers, in an email to new leaders, laid out two paths for the orientation trips. If the fall semester begins as usual, the program will likely proceed as planned, but with a potentially longer fall training to account for the time lost this spring. If the semester is conducted remotely, then the program will “undergo radical changes,” according to an email to leaders from WAI directors Solly Kasab ’21, Hannah Moore ’22 and Nathan Thimothe ’22. “The program will have to change, and of course that means your roles would evolve in this scenario,” the email reads.

While awaiting Mandel’s decision, several groups have halted their planning and are only only considering speculative ideas at this time. No Ephventure has reached any clear planning decisions at the time of publication.

Director of the Williams Outing Club Scott Lewis acknowledged that, while not much planning can be accomplished at the present moment, students, faculty and staff are working to create meaningful First Days experiences, regardless of what the fall may look like. “We do know that we are all committed to coming up with creative and welcoming strategies that will help incoming students be prepared for Williams and feel like they belong to this community nestled in these Berkshire hills of Massachusetts,” Lewis said.