Student Life

How GCOM Council Adapted to a Virtual Environment by Patrick Phibbs (M.S. in Commerce ’21)

M.S. in Commerce student Patrick Phibbs talks with GCOM Council CEO Jordan Beeker about how the group changed their semester plans to include virtual events.

Jordan Beeker and Patrick Phibbs

COVID-19 has made an impact in everyone’s life over the past several months. While many aspects of my graduate school experience were changed due to the pandemic, one thing that was especially different from past years has been social life and getting to know classmates.

For prospective students uncertain about what their graduate experience may look like, I would like to give some insight into my own social life as a current McIntire student. During any normal year, students can utilize the Graduate Commerce (GCOM) Council as a resource that sponsors in-person educational, social, community, and cultural activities for graduate students at McIntire. Like many other groups and activities, GCOM had to adapt to a new environment this year.

As the current COO of the M.S. in Commerce branch of the GCOM Council, I have seen how hard the faculty and students have worked to maintain a strong, family-like community. Although we had to make changes to what might typically be done during a year, we were still able to maintain certain events and create opportunities for students to get together. Although there have been challenges, we’ve still been able to create meaningful friendships and connections with other McIntire students through it all.

While the fall semester may have been different in a lot of ways, social life and getting to know our classmates have remained a priority in order to create a tight bonds with one another. Looking forward, we hope to keep hosting events that will bring people together and help them form strong relationships, whether in person or virtual.

Check out my conversation with the council’s CEO, Jordan Beeker, to hear more about the future of GCOM events:

What are some new scheduled events or event ideas for spring semester?
Although we expect the social distancing guidelines to maintain intact throughout the spring semester, we are excited to bring the class together in new ways. For in-person events, we found that splitting up people into small group gatherings worked well last semester. For the spring, we hope to implement this idea for winery excursions, group dinners, poker nights, and more as a way to allow mingling among the class while also following social distancing regulations. We also intend to host virtual events to cater more towards students who will be remote for the semester. Some tentative plans we have include virtual trivia nights and happy hours for the class.

How has COVID-19 affected the scheduling of social events?
COVID-19 has proved to be very challenging for GCOM Council. The purpose of our organization is to encourage cohesion among the class, and the restrictions in place make this very difficult to accomplish. As council members, we care deeply about the safety of McIntire students and want to comply with UVA guidelines during our term. Restrictions have ultimately caused us to reduce the number of in-person events hosted this semester, which has caused frustration for many. Despite this, we are hopeful that we can continue our efforts to create a community here into the spring.

How did the council help remote students get involved with McIntire-sponsored events?
We have made an effort to incorporate more virtual events into our programming. While fall semester virtual events were very limited, we have scheduled virtual happy hours and meetups for winter break, and plan on hosting similar events throughout the spring semester. Another example from this semester has been distributing Starbucks coffee gift cards for students during the final exam, which benefited both in-person and remote students.

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