Bear Fair 2.0: Virtual to in-person

Large+groups+of+students+attended+the+student+organization+meet+and+greet%2C+also+referred+to+as+Bear+Fair+2.0%2C+on+Aug.+28.+This+event+was+held+after+a+fully+virtual+Bear+Fair+on+Aug.+17+had+many+technical+difficulties

Image: Mary Helene Hall

Large groups of students attended the student organization meet and greet, also referred to as Bear Fair 2.0, on Aug. 28. This event was held after a fully virtual Bear Fair on Aug. 17 had many technical difficulties

A student organization meet and greet, also referred to as Bear Fair 2.0, organized by Mercer Campus Life occurred in the wake of a fully virtual Bear Fair that occurred Aug. 17. 

Clubs and student organizations from the Mercer community advertised their groups at Bear Fair 2.0 on Aug. 28 in an effort to gain new members. Booths were sprawled around Cruz Plaza about six feet apart, and masks were required. 

According to Director of Campus Life and Student Involvement Carrie Ingoldsby, Campus Life surveyed students and student organization representatives about their experiences at the  virtual Bear Fair. About 130 individuals responded. Of those respondents, about 75% said they experienced some technical difficulties. 

The Caribbean Student Association was among the roughly 70 student organizations in attendance at Bear Fair 2.0. Member Tamara Barnard manned the organization’s booth for both the virtual and in-person Bear Fair.

“I wish it worked for more people,” Barnard said. “I didn’t really have any trouble, it just took a while to download. If everyone was able to, it would have been a really cool experience.”

Although participation was not as high as a traditional Bear Fair, Ingoldsby said that she thinks the virtual Bear Fair was a success.

Virtual Bear Fair was also hosted by Campus Life and utilized a virtual platform by Degy Entertainment called Degy World.

“We took a little bit of a chance, and we booked a virtual experience with Degy World,” Ingoldsby said. “This was their first really, really large event where a lot of people would be accessing the world at once. So, some lessons learned, of course.”

Within the two-and-a-half-hour window, Ingoldsby said that about 550 students attended the virtual Bear Fair. 

Many students in attendance reported technical issues ranging from Wi-Fi connectivity problems, computers being unable to run the program or being unable to speak to other participants. 

Despite the issues surrounding Degy World, Ingoldsby said the in-person event was not scheduled in response to the results of virtual Bear Fair.

“As much as virtual events are a good way to continue to engage students, we felt like if we could get through a few weeks safely of class and other events, we could offer a face-to-face option as well,” she said. 

Many of the attendees of Bear Fair 2.0 were students who had trouble accessing Degy World.

Lindsey Tatum and Charity Cook, both freshmen, said they could not get the program downloaded on their computers. However, they said they were happier to see the student organizations in person.

“It’s definitely easier to see it in person than trying to do it over a computer,” Tatum said.

Sophomore Nick Moss said that he would have liked to attend virtual Bear Fair, but he never received a link to access it via his Mercer email. Instead, he watched his friend, freshman Aeryn Cronin, explore the world. “It did not seem as good as (Bear Fair 2.0),” Moss said. “It just seemed clunky.”

Moss noted that the in-person event looked successful, and he thought it was organized well with coronavirus in mind.

“It looks like it’s a hit with everyone. Lots of people coming out,” he said. “I think it’s good with everything going on that they’re still hosting things where people can get out. Stops people from going other places.”