Photo provided by Trinity University
This year’s Fall Family Weekend, while historically an opportunity for parents to reconnect with their students mid-semester and attend in-person events, will be going virtual due to COVID-19 precautions. As webinars replace tailgates and picnics, the planning committee has been flexible in its preparation for this Trinity tradition, which is to take place Oct. 2-4.
According to Susan Lavenant, assistant director of Special Events, all events for this year’s Fall Family Weekend will take place online. While conducting the event over Zoom has its drawbacks, Lavenant noted that virtual events present an opportunity to expand engagement and attendance.
‘I like to do face-to-face. I like to put a name to the face. Now we are having to do things a little differently, and it’s virtual. I’ve been working at Trinity since 2011, so you have your same donors attend a lot of the events. It’s always nice to be like, ‘Oh, there are Joe, good to see you!’ Or you have gotten to the point that you give them a hug or handshake or just a friendly welcome,” said Lavenant. “I think being virtual, you don’t get that same experience, however there’s pros to it. Now, people that live out of town who have not been able to attend a lot of our events because of the distance, it’s nice to have them join. It’s a perfect year to explore all the different options.”
Aliza Holzman-Cantu, director of Parent Giving and Engagement, described the various events taking place over the weekend, new and old.
“[This year there will be] panel discussions with leadership, a state of the university address from the president, Saturday the 3rd there’s a theater production, so we are looking at that, and also a lecture on the election by a couple of professors who are experts in the field,” said Holzman-Cantu.
David Tuttle, dean of students, emphasized the challenges of virtual planning, noting that concerns over privacy led the committee to alter the format of some events.
“We try to showcase our faculty at different times. In the past it has been that family members can visit a class. To do that in a Zoom environment with some of the FERPA considerations, the privacy considerations, we decided that would be just different enough that it made us uncomfortable. Instead what we will do is have a presentation to family members about the upcoming election. This way it will be an educational element. It’s relevant, it’s timely, it showcases our professors and it can be interactive,” Tuttle said.
The state of the university address from Danny Anderson, president of Trinity University, is an annual highlight of Fall Family Weekend that will continue virtually and provide an opportunity for families to engage with Trinity leadership.
“We honestly discussed whether or not to even have [Fall Family Weekend], because it will be markedly different from what we have done before. One of the things that has always been a really important element is the state of the university [address] from President Anderson. We are trying to set that up as a live webinar event, and that’s really important for families to pose their questions, unfiltered and direct to the president,” Tuttle said.
This year’s Fall Family Weekend also presents an opportunity for parents to connect with one another virtually by region, making up for the loss of what are traditionally in-person connections.
While the committee is unsure of the number of families that plan to attend the fully virtual Fall Family Weekend, recent trends suggest that many parents are likely to be interested in engaging in the events through Zoom.
“We did a virtual webinar that included alumni, donors, friends, and a little over 300 people signed up for it. This was kind of the first one we had done like this, so I’m just comparing to that. I’m hoping it’s going to be a really good turn out,” Levanant said.