Running a study association during the Covid-19 pandemic

Authors: Marcel van Hoorn & Jeroen de Smet
November 26, 2020

A board year is a year that should always be an unforgettable time of your life. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, everything is different compared to previous years. As the new board, we have been thrown into the unknown and need to decide what is best, despite having never experienced something like this and not being able to use playbooks from previous years. Let’s look at some challenges and opportunities that arise.

One of the main challenges we face is to keep in touch with our members. Normally, the office is located in Building E at the University campus. Members could walk in and out whenever they wanted and chat or study with each other. However, since the pandemic, the ‘rooms’ have been closed for a while for members. This means that organizing informal events has become increasingly important to keep the social cohesion between our members. With Covid-19 guidelines and regulations changing all the time, it takes a lot of flexibility and creativity to keep organizing these informal events. There always has to be a scenario prepared in which an event is cancelled or hosted online. We always work hard and think outside of the box to develop possible new events, which also provides committees the chance to keep learning and organize new sorts of events. We also introduced new things to keep members involved despite the distance, such as an active members Instagram.

The most important thing in order to collaborate well with fellow board members is communication. As earlier mentioned, the office has closed its doors for members, but this also applies to board members. At the moment of writing, it is allowed to invite 3 guests outside of your household. With our board consisting of 5 members, it is impossible to sit together keeping the Covid-19 guidelines into account. This results in long conversations over the phone, while it actually would have taken 5 minutes if you could have just sat together. This may cause unnecessary frustrations and does not improve the relationship between board members. To solve these issues we have introduced start of the day meetings to discuss issues we are facing and what we are working on. Also, we try to sit together in smaller groups, such as duos, as much as possible to be able to work together and be able to discuss issues more quickly when they arise.

Another main aspect of our association is career events. Normally, the Inside the Business Day takes place on campus but as the university wants students to work from home as much as possible, we decided to organize the event online. An online event brings new challenges, but also new opportunities. One of these opportunities is to have students from all over the world join the event.  As many students of the MSc Economics are international students, Covid-19 might have led to students staying in their home country. Organizing these types of events online also provides the opportunity to invite companies from other countries. The online Inside the Business Day was a great way to create a bridge between four interesting companies and all of our students.

Does the Covid-19 pandemic make a board year impossible? Definitely not. In fact, it offers the opportunity to look at the association from a different angle. Because there are less daily tasks we have to complete, it is possible to improve certain things for the long-term. For example, we took a look at our social media presence. Social Media is being used a lot more in these times, so we decided to improve our channels and to make them more professional. We created board accounts to control the company accounts, we planned a more stable flow on the feeds, invited many people to like and follow and are developing more of a fixed house style for posts on the feed.

Since we have to do almost everything from scratch, it also makes it possible to develop more on a personal as well profesional level, which could lead to more valuable skills that you could use in the future. The current situation with all the uncertainty requires flexibility and quick thinking, which are great things to develop for later. Also, with the regulations making standard events impossible, our creative thinking is stimulated a lot as well. We also have also learned to enjoy the small things. For example, when finding a company that is willing to join in a formal event or when lots of members are interested in a new type of event you worked hard for, this gives a great energy boost.

In conclusion, the pandemic makes it harder to run a study association. Especially maintaining social cohesion is a great challenge in these times. However, there are also some advantages. Since we have less daily tasks, we can focus more on possibilities in the long term. Because of the challenges we face, we are able to develop ourselves more. There are no scripts for situations like this, which means we have to discover most of it by ourselves. All in all, a board year during a pandemic may be a bigger challenge than what we wanted, but this challenge also gives a unique opportunity for self-development and opportunities for a renewed view at the association and its current processes. 

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