October 2020 Get to Know Our Local Groups: NDWC Atlanta

Local NDWC groups have adapted programming in amazing ways in order to provide the camaraderie and connection we look for in these times of strain and stress. NDWC Atlanta hosted well-received, innovative virtual events over the past few months - Becky Wagner ‘15 shares how their club worked to bring people together even when we have to stay apart!

How did you get involved initially with NDWC?

After I graduated from Notre Dame in 2015, I moved to Dallas, TX and joined the ND Club of Dallas a year later. Being part of the club (and later, part of the club leadership team) introduced me to some amazing people, gave me opportunities to serve my community/local alumni, and allowed me to be part of events I really enjoyed - especially the Notre Dame Women Connect activities like the Shared Read experience and service projects. When I moved to Atlanta, GA last year, the first thing I did was reach out to the ND Club of Atlanta and volunteer to help on the NDWC Committee. I was excited to have the opportunity to help plan events for local alumnae that ranged from social to community service to professional and everything in between. It’s been a great experience so far!

Can you explain a little about your Covid-era events and share how they developed? What was the process from idea to execution and who was involved in making it happen? 

Together with the Notre Dame Club of Atlanta NDWC committee, we have hosted three virtual events so far this year. It was difficult to modify events to make them accessible online and to market the events to our members, but the challenges were worth it and provided a number of lessons learned to make future events even better.

Our Shared Read discussion of Just Mercy was originally planned as an in-person event in April. When COVID-19 social distancing guidelines were put in place, we pivoted to host the event virtually instead using Google Hangouts. Those who were able to join the virtual event turned on their videos, and we leveraged the Shared Read discussion guide to steer the conversation. The biggest takeaway from the event was the importance of starting off with introductions and an icebreaker - this really helps to put people at ease and encourage participation.  

Our second virtual event was a workout class. Julia Lynch '14 volunteered to lead a dynamic, engaging, and challenging high intensity interval class that called for no fancy equipment - just a t-shirt or towel. Julia had been hosting virtual workout classes already, and we were fortunate that she was interested in leading a class for our group. Everyone joined through Google Hangouts on their devices and we had a lot of fun getting stronger together while maintaining safe social distance from our homes. 

Becky Wagner '15 (foreground) and Julia Lynch '14 work out with NDWC Atlanta 

Finally, in recognition of World Blood Donor Day, we decided to host a “virtual blood drive” in lieu of our annual in-person blood drive. We put together a communication plan consisting of emails and a Facebook event to encourage our members to find a local Red Cross to donate blood during a certain time frame, and to send in photos of them giving back. 

Presumably there were challenges but also pleasant surprises in hosting virtual events. What did you experience? 

For us, the biggest challenge was encouraging participation. Although the events we hosted had smaller turnouts than a typical in-person event, I was pleasantly surprised that they were still engaging and positive experiences for those that did attend. For example, there were only a few of us dialed into the virtual Shared Read event - but this allowed us to have a really deep and thoughtful discussion in which each of us could engage fully.

What would you say to an alum who isn’t sure if a virtual event is worth attending, or who feels ‘Zoomed out’?

“Zoom fatigue," or feeling drained from video calls, is becoming more and more common. If you're planning on joining or hosting an interesting event that's virtual (whether it's an online networking event with your local ND Club or a Zoom call with your college friends), block out some time before the call to do something other than look at a screen: take a walk, read a book, work out, listen to music, whatever you need to do to disconnect. When you join the virtual event, close out of your email/tabs and turn your phone on "do not disturb" mode. As tempting as it may be to multitask, being present during the event will allow you to be more engaged in what's going on - plus it will be much more enjoyable and less stressful!

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