By Katie Volpentesta–

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on every organization on U of L’s campus, but the Engage Lead Serve Board (ELSB) has worked hard to ensure that they can hold safe meetings and events as often as possible.

Before the pandemic, ELSB relied heavily on in-person operations for meetings, events, and service opportunities. “Helping committees and programs plan and execute events was a challenge at first because we were all trying to find our footing in a foundation no one was grounded in,” said programming director Nada Kaissieh via email.

“The key as leaders was finding a way to pull them back in, to maintain that strong connection with them in a way that will help them feel supported during this critical time.”

ELSB is split into six committees: Animal Welfare, Mental and Physical Health, Community Peace, Green Initiatives, Equality and Justice, and Human Prosperity. They also have several programs dedicated to service, leadership, freshman involvement, and promoting civic engagement. ELSB’s top four, which acts as their executive board, oversees their committee and programs.

Similar to UofL’s class structure, ELSB has incorporated a hybrid option to keep students on campus as involved as possible. They have partnered with outside speakers at their virtual meetings and events, as well as allowed for students to pick up care packages and packaged materials that they can take home and use during meetings and events (i.e. origami, materials to make blankets, etc.).

The Green Initiatives committee planned a socially distanced scavenger hunt around campus called Sustainable Gems where they made students aware of the sustainable features around campus. ELSB encourages and enforces the university’s COVID-19 guidelines at all in-person operation. “ELSB involvement is very diverse, and we encourage students to connect with our programs and committees in a way that is as safe and comfortable for them,” said Kaissieh.

Animal Welfare committee co-chair Emma Jones has seen a variety of benefits and drawbacks of meeting virtually via Microsoft Teams. “While having in-person events have many advantages, I love how accessible virtual meetings are, and I’d love to keep it as an option for my meetings and events,” said Jones.

“However, since my committee likes to pair an activity with each meeting, we struggle with finding creativity for virtual activities, or suggesting activities that members can do with common items around their living space.” Jones also acknowledges the difficulty of staying focused and actively engaged by having to stare at a screen for an hour.

Personally, Kaissieh has found her position changing throughout the pandemic. “In a world where the only constant is change, we have to be present with the current situation we are living in and continually asking ourselves how we can be better, connect better, and program more intentionally to better the lives of those around us,” said Kaissieh.

She has found herself to value being more intentional and accessible with her position by attending committee meetings more frequently and recording her reports so committee leaders can watch her give them instead of reading them.

“Trying to balance so much change at once can be difficult, but in ELSB we try to create and nurture a supportive environment where it doesn’t feel as though you are handling anything alone because we are all going through this period of adjustment and grieving… grieving a life we thought we would have this semester,” said Kaissieh.

Kaissieh, Jones, and other committee members and leaders look forward to their final event of the semester, Eco-Hop. “My committee is collaborating with many committees/programs on ELSB for our final event of the semester,” said Jones. “GreenInitiatives, Animal Welfare, Community Peace, Mental and Physical Health, Alternative Service Break, and the UofL Study Abroad Program are coming together to discuss sustainable, ethical, and safe traveling around the world.”

Eco-Hop takes place on November 19 at 5 p.m. via Microsoft Teams. More information can be found on ELSB’s Instagram page. For more information about ELSB and its committees and programs, follow @uoflelsb, @uoflve, and @uoflccfp on Instagram.

ELSB also promotes outside collaborations, so if you are an organization that is wanting to partner with ELSB and our mission, make sure to fill out the collaboration form on Engage or reach out to [email protected]

Photo Courtesy of ELSB