Continuing Community Ties: How Adapting to Online Engagement Evolves Chapter Identity
Since COVID-19, it has been an extremely difficult time for our chapter. We were no longer interacting with our membership the way we once did, all of the events we had planned seemed as if they needed to be postponed or canceled, and the sense of community and agency of AIAS was no longer present. It was difficult for us to realize that the momentum we have created and everything we have worked so hard on during the past 9 months came to a screeching halt. However, after much discussion, we felt it was important to not let this stand in our way of pursuing our goals for the future of our chapter and this organization.
One of the biggest events we hold during the year is the Annual Spaghetti Dinner that helps us bring the community together by showcasing all of the hard work and events we have done, as well as act as an opportunity for funding for our chapter. This year we had everything planned out down to the color of the table cloths, but unfortunately after spring break, when social distancing was implemented, we had to reconsider its format. After speaking about it for quite some time, we understood how important this event was for our chapter, as well as our sponsors, and decided that the event must go on. We weighed out all of our options for a new format, those that would be most efficient and easy for the community to use, and came up with the idea to transition our Annual Spaghetti Dinner to an online format via Instagram. When talking about what we wanted to post on this platform, we felt that it was important to make sure we touched on a few key points. We wanted to introduce our board and exemplify all of our hard work throughout the year, showcase the events and workshops we had put on to help our members grow their skills and talents, recognize and introduce our new board that would come to serve this upcoming year, as well as thank our sponsors and our community for everything they have done and continue to do for our chapter.
The first step was to contact our community and let them know that we had decided to transition our event to an online format through Instagram. There were a few people that did not have an Instagram account, so we made sure to create a video using Adobe Premier combing all of our images and videos from the event to then email out to those who wanted a copy. Our marketing committee then had a thorough meeting discussing all of the topics that should be touched during the Spaghetti Dinner and created an outline for our Spaghetti Dinner format. After that, our Historian, Gabrielle Fernandez, did an amazing job of making each and every one of the graphics for our event! She started by making templates in illustrator at the same size of a phone screen, designed and detailed each template to fit a specific topic, and organized all the files in our Google Drive so they were ready to upload on the day of the event. Both Gabi and I took to Instagram on April 24th at 4pm to start the Spaghetti Dinner on both our local and West Quad Instagram account.
We have never done an online event like this one before, so we were unsure if this event would be successful, but there were so many people that participated and we received amazing feedback from our community! One of the biggest reasons we decided to put this event on was to bring our members and support systems together during this difficult time and to help take people’s minds off of what has recently been happening in the world. We also wanted to highlight what our chapter is not seeing during this time as an obstacle, but rather an opportunity to have our voices heard on different platforms to encourage those around us.
In conclusion, this event was a complete success and helped us format our future events we would come to have throughout the rest of the semester, such as portfolio workshops and our Annual Beaux Arts Ball. We thoroughly documented the process and outcome of the event for future boards in case our chapter needs to ever transition events to an online format again, along with written details of what worked well and what could have been improved. Thank you to everyone who participated and attended! It means a lot to our chapter.
Testimonials + Reflections
“It has been difficult for us to transition our chapter to a more remote means of functioning. We miss seeing our members and engaging our community in all that we do. Things won’t be the same for quite a while and we realize this as a chapter and organization, however, we can’t let things like this stand in our way if we want to make a difference, which is exactly what we told ourselves going into this. It is our responsibility as a chapter in AIAS to make a difference in the best way we can.”
– Carley Pasqualotto (2019-2020 AIAS UNLV President)
“Our Spaghetti Dinner event is always one to look forward to each year for the AIAS chapter at UNLV! It is fun to be able to mingle with industry professionals, with our peers, and taking time to reflect on what we have done that year in our chapter. Additionally, it also gives us a platform to thank our sponsors and supporters of our AIAS chapter to show how truly appreciative we are of them. This year things were different in the delivery method of the event, but we still were able to preserve the essence of the Spaghetti Dinner. Our team worked hard to make sure this event went well on Instagram as it was one of our first online events of this magnitude. The event went really well as we had lots of engagement from our community within our AIAS chapter and from the industry professionals in our city! It was awesome to be able to see a montage of this year’s work and share that with as many people as possible. The event is a truly unifying experience where we can bring together different firms throughout the valley to celebrate the development of future architects. Being able to see all the support from the different professionals helps our members feel that the AIAS is able to help us transition from academia to the profession. Being part of the AIAS chapter at UNLV has helped me develop strong work ethic habits that have helped me tremendously during these times. It was difficult to do school work and my job from home as everything had to share the same environment. This was tough as it felt like there was no differentiation between the different activities, but being able to work alongside with my peers in the AIAS chapter helped a lot. It also helps to be able to collaborate with my peers, to help out our members within our chapters, and to ensure we do what we can to help in any way they may need. Our chapter represents structure to me, and that is much needed during these times. Overall, the Spaghetti Dinner was a great event that we were able to put on for our members and supporters in the profession. I look forward to what our chapter will be able to do this upcoming year!”
– Tristan Osorio (2020-20201 AIAS UNLV Freedom By Design Director)
“I enjoyed the Spaghetti dinner. It was a nice break compared to the chaos happening outside. It reminded me to take a breather and know that not everything is a mess right now. It was especially beneficial to our community and members because it serves as a reminder that we aren’t alone. Instead, we still have each other in the AIAS community to talk to. To be an AIAS chapter right now to me means to keep spirits up while we all fight against COVID-19. Just because we aren’t on the frontlines of the battle doesn’t mean we can’t help by boosting the morales of those in the AIAS community in addition to our immediate communities.”
– Raymond So (2020-2021 AIAS UNLV Events Coordinator)
“This year’s Spaghetti Dinner was well put together and was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I was unable to attend last year’s Spaghetti Dinner due to time restraints, but this year it was formatted in a way where anyone was able to watch it at any time. It served as not only a reflection of what AIAS has accomplished in the past year, but also gave the members a glimpse of what to come in the next year. This year the Spaghetti Dinner was held through Instagram stories due to COVID-19, but even with the obstacles it was still a very enjoyable event. It was our chance to say thank you to everyone who took part in this organization. The Spaghetti Dinner was incredibly important to our community and members, especially at a time like this where we are unable to physically come together due to our current circumstances. One of the biggest benefits of hosting this event online is that members were able to watch the event on their own time and had the ability to rewatch the entire thing through their feed.”
– Edith Alvarez (2020-2021 AIAS Treasurer)
“Our annual spaghetti dinner brings the community of students, faculty, and professionals together to reflect on the achievements of our shared organizations. Although this year we were unable to gather around the same table, we still wanted to share a moment together.
– Carlos Martin (2019-2020 AIAS UNLV Yearbook Chair + Editor)
The event was really successful and made a great impact on both our members and supporters. It helped our community and members take a second from this crazy world we are living in right now and just see all the things we did this year as a community. It is incredibly important for us to be an AIAS chapter right now. We need to be a light for our community and need to stick together as students and as student chapters. We as AIAS are committed to the well being of ourselves and our members, and this is the time when they need us and our community the most.
– Michelle Tapia (2020-2021 AIAS UNLV President)
“The Spaghetti Dinner was different because as the first big event we did in our transition to online engagement, there was a pressure to make sure we were well-prepared, even more so than a typical event we would host. Overall, I think it went really well and was a much-needed event to have during this time because it highlighted the best parts of our Chapter and community. The importance of having a good community has been amplified, and ultimately that’s what I think it means to be an AIAS Chapter during this time— to give as much support as possible to our community and to each other, and to remind our members that they aren’t alone in any difficulties they may have.”
– Gabrielle Fernandez (2019-2020 AIAS UNLV Historian)
“Covid-19 has been a difficult challenge for the entire world, but I believe our chapter was dedicated in fostering a sense of unity despite the circumstances. The Spaghetti Dinner event was a clear example of how our chapter was able to utilize technology to overcome the challenges presented. This event was meant to show our appreciation towards the people and firms who believe in us, and it was important to prove to them that nothing would stand in our way to succeed. It is during times like this that truly helps define the strength of a chapter. Most importantly, the event also helps set an example for current and future members. I am so proud of our chapter and everyone who made this event possible!”
– Douglas Wong (2019-2020 AIAS UNLV Vice President)
What does it mean to be an AIAS Chapter during this time?
Being an AIAS chapter during this time has not been easy, but has given us an opportunity to find new ways of engaging with our members for the future of our organization. Our community needs to come together right now more than ever and we are making sure of upholding our mission and values as best as we can during this difficult time. We have completely transitioned all of our events to an online format and will be having our strategic planning session for this year very soon. We will most likely be discussing how to continue our momentum online since it seems this is the way our universities and the organization will be continuing with their curriculum. We can foresee that it will be harder to get our voices heard since it is much easier to do in person, but it is our responsibility as a chapter and organization to act with agency when it comes to our local, regional, and national communities. We are going to continue to focus on quality over quantity in everything we do and ensuring we give our members the benefits they sign up for. We hope that this blog post will help shed some light on what we are doing to overcome these obstacles and we hope this will help you out in some way. We look forward to seeing everyone at Grassroots 2020 (online of course) and wish you health and safety during this time!
*If you’re interested in seeing the full event, make sure to go to our Instagram (@aias_unlv)!