Student organizations step up for their members
April 13, 2020 / by Ryley McGinnis
Mason Engineering’s student organizations give students a sense of community, and in these extraordinary times, they are not losing sight of that.
Organizations' executive boards are working hard to stay connected with their members during this period of isolation while staying true to their individual membership.
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is among these many organizations. President of Mason’s student chapter Ximena Perez and vice president Elias Aleman, both computer sciences majors, were disappointed they had to cancel the rest of their semester events, but they are making the most of the virtual situation.
“The most important thing is that we’re not going to stop doing things for our members. We still have a month and a half left, and we want to make this as engaging as possible,” says Aleman. They started doing this by asking members what they want to see so that they can implement as quickly as possible.
SHPE usually hosts a series of professional and social events throughout the semester. Now, they are looking into virtual study sessions, Netflix Party events, and virtual elections for next year’s officers.
“Our members aren’t just worried about the classroom right now,” says Aleman. “Some of our members lost their jobs and the Mason Pantry is no longer available,” says Perez.
They stress the importance of sticking together and showing their members that they are there for them even though they can’t be physically together. “We’ve always stayed connected with our members. We really want to continue that sense of support,” says Perez.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) is taking a similar approach. “We have been reaching out to our members individually and through social media,” says student chapter president and information technology major Maya Chatterjee. “We hope to do a virtual event later this month, events with other student organizations, and ones among the board members.”
SWE normally hosts professional, social, and outreach events throughout the year and celebrates holidays such as International Women’s Day to support female students in engineering. “We want to see a lot of women in engineering and motivate them. We want to help people in their educations and careers,” says vice president and computer science major Shruti Gupta.
“We have started doing mock virtual interviews,” says Chatterjee. “A lot of members’ interviews for internships or jobs have turned virtual, and it’s a valuable skill for the job search in general.”
The board says they are excited to get back to Mason and their members once possible. “I feel like I took it for granted, I want to be back with my friends and give them my full attention,” says Gupta.
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), like others, is actively staying in contact with their members.
“We use GroupMe a lot to give members information we receive, like updates from the university, Virginia, and the rest of the country,” says Mason’s chapter president and civil engineering major Jamal Taylor.
Normally, the group has study sessions every Tuesday and Thursday, and a general body meeting every month in addition to their professional development events. So, while the board themselves have been transitioning to virtual classes, Taylor says they want to keep hearing from and helping their members.
NSBE’s national chapter is also trying to support their chapters across the country with a virtual career fair in place of their national convention that was scheduled for March, while also holding an in-person convention hopefully sometime in August. “This is a good alternative, especially for those actively job-searching,” says Taylor.
A senior, Taylor says he wants to find a way to honor his fellow seniors in the group since commencement is so uncertain. “While they understand why, some members are upset about commencement being postponed, so we want to make sure they know we care.”
And not only seniors, but he also adds, "This is hard for everyone, and our organization wants to be there to help."