Bear Fair will be getting a makeover this year due to COVID-19.
The event, traditionally hosted in person, introduces new students to Mercer’s student groups including volunteer clubs, Greek-letter organizations, intramurals, religious organizations, honor societies and more.
An event to which the entire freshman class and over 100 organizations are invited would not have met Mercer’s new safety protocols due to the coronavirus, so Campus Life had to brainstorm new ways to keep Bear Fair an interactive and engaging event for students.
“We can’t do it face-to-face because it’s just too massive an event with people having too much contact, especially in the beginning,” said Director of Campus Life and Student Involvement Carrie Ingoldsby.
Campus Life landed on an emerging virtual event platform called Degy World.
Degy World, created by Degy Entertainment, provides environments for events including concert stages, auditoriums, classrooms and convention halls, which is what will be used for Bear Fair.
“It’s really cool,” said Ingoldsby. “It’s like going to a virtual conference.”
Each user will be able to make their own avatar, walk around the event and visit different booths for each participating organization.
“It was just kind of fun to make it different than a Zoom meeting,” Ingoldsby said. “It offered a different and unique way to do Bear Fair that I think will feel more interactive and feel kind of fun.”
Organizations will be able to provide Campus Life with photos, presentations and other visual elements for their virtual booths. Each organization will also be allowed to have two representatives hosting their booth.
At press time, Ingoldsby said that 106 organizations have already registered for virtual Bear Fair.
Ingoldsby said that Mercer is one of the first collegiate institutions to conduct a large-scale event with the new platform.
“It’s surprising every day the number of universities that are going virtual or getting hybrid options that are looking into alternatives for their events,” said Degy Entertainment Major Event Operations Manager Natalie Sitter. “We are hopeful that we are providing a great alternative that still gives that human interaction and the ability to speak voice-to-voice to someone and to feel like you are in an actual venue.”
Bear Fair will be the first expo hall event hosted in Degy World.
“We’ve been in there testing it and making sure that everything is good to go,” Sitter said.
A concern that Ingoldsby addressed was making sure new students actually take advantage of Bear Fair despite it going virtual.
“That’s the only downfall,” she said. “You’ve got to have it on your computer, but I really don’t think it’s all that difficult, so I’m hoping that does not sway people.”
Campus Life will reach out to students soon with information about how to install Degy World on their PC or Mac computers.
Ingoldsby said that installation took her less than 10 minutes.
“My hope is that the (peer advisors) will help us push (attendance) and really remind them that this is the same event; it just happens to be online, and that it’s a really cool virtual experience,” she said.
Bear Fair will take place Monday, Aug. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m.