Students participate in outdoor yoga on the Front Lawn in fall 2020. Campus organization, Lehigh After Dark, continues to offer programming for students and hosts a variety of virtual and socially distanced events to engage students. (Courtesy of Lehigh After Dark)

Lehigh After Dark adapts to provide students with socially distanced fun

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Throughout the spring 2021 semester, Lehigh After Dark, a campus organization dedicated to planning social events not involving alcohol, has continued to provide students with virtual activities.

Events hosted by Lehigh After Dark include virtual Family Feud, virtual bingo, escape rooms and virtual trivia every Thursday.

Additionally, they have hosted take and make paint nights where students can pick up an art kit and follow along virtually at home with their roommates or housemates.

Ada Patterson, ‘21, student coordinator, works specifically on trivia nights which are currently being hosted on Zoom.

Patterson said hosting trivia on Zoom is less engaging than it was in person and attendance has been much lower.

“The people who play are not working on teams really,” Patterson said. “People don’t talk or have their videos on as much even though we try to encourage that. I think everyone’s just sick of going on Zoom to.”

Patterson said although those attending the events are often the same people, they seem to enjoy them. They are still focused on trying to expand the range of students who attend.

Jenna Papaz, director of Health Advancement and Prevention Strategies, said despite the circumstances, Lehigh After Dark is still focused on creating social opportunities for students.

“We’ve been really intentional about trying to program as much as we possibly could so that students have an outlet,” Papaz said.

Papaz said Lehigh After Dark has had to be flexible in planning all events and has had to prepare for a myriad of COVID-19 related difficulties.

“This team was completely committed to pivoting or adapting as many times as necessary to be able to program quality virtual hybrid events for students because we know that it has meaning on this campus and it is of value,” Papaz said.

Based on surveys the group sent to student attendees, those in attendance reported feeling a sense of belonging.

Among those who attended Lehigh After Dark events in fall 2020, about half met someone new, 62 percent felt less stressed after attending an event, 72 percent stated they have positively impacted their Lehigh experience and the amount of students who felt more connected to others by attending an event increased by 63 percent in just one year.

“Throughout this time that we’ve been remote, students are still looking for some ways to stay connected to campus and Lehigh After Dark continues to be a staple experience for them,” said Nick Christy, assistant director of student engagement.

Patterson said their goal for the semester is to get people to interact and meet someone new.

Both Papaz and Christy concurred with Patterson. Papaz said Lehigh After Dark is continuing to try to get the word out about their events.

“Please take that leap and just attend a (Lehigh After Dark) event because you might find somebody new, or you might enjoy yourself and it is about connection,” Papaz said.

Lehigh After Dark hosts the majority of their events in Lamberton Hall, however, due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 10 people are allowed in the building at once.

Despite this, Christy hopes once the limit is higher they can transition into more in-person events.

“We are disappointed that we can’t do more in person, although with the recent announcement, we’re excited that some restrictions have loosened,” Christy said.

Christy said as the weather gets nicer, they hope to utilize outdoor spaces to host events like outdoor movie nights and yoga.

Although Lehigh After Dark often operates their own events, Papaz said they frequently partner with other campus organizations which tends to boost attendance.

The Italian club recently sponsored trivia, the Asian Cultural Society sponsored a virtual escape room and the Black Student Union sponsored a canvas painting night.

Groups can request funding for their own events or sponsor one created by Lehigh After Dark.

Students who are looking to plan or need help brainstorming an event can reach out to Lehigh After Dark at [email protected]

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