Nora McConnell Johnson
Nora McConnell Johnson, MPP Class of 2021

Nora McConnell Johnson, MPP Class of 2021, and Chair of the Harris Student Government Social Committee, writes about what she is doing to maintain her social life at Harris as we transition to virtual.

One of my favorite parts of Harris is the community—some of my best moments have been during social events with my peers. I joined Social Committee as soon as I arrived and have loved planning events like Harris After Hours and Follies (our annual variety show). Our spring quarter at Harris was to be Social Committee’s biggest and best yet—we had our End of Year Gala scheduled at the Art Institute (in the Monet exhibit!)—and I was in charge of planning “Harries,” our student-run awards and accolades ceremony. A transition to remote learning, however, has also meant a transition to virtual social events.

One of the main challenges of virtual social events, as anyone who has attended a “Zoom happy hour” has experienced, is that the dynamics we rely on with in-person socializing are hard to recreate on a platform like Zoom. With this in mind, the Social Committee piloted our first virtual Harris After Hours last week. We called on five Harris Student Organizations to help out and asked each of them to prepare 15 minutes of trivia based on their organization. Black Action in Public Policy Spaces (BAPPS), Muslim Affairs and Public Policy (MAPP), Prairie State Society, OUTPolitik, and Women in Public Policy (WiPP) all stepped up to help. As an added bonus for participating, we did a random name drawing of all participants between each game to raffle off Amazon gift cards.

As for the games themselves, Kahoot has been my go-to for virtual game night. I used Kahoot ALL the time when I was a teacher, because my students loved how fun and engaging it was, and the games are easy to create. Each student organization made a Kahoot with their trivia questions, and when it was time to play they shared their screen and all of the participants logged in using their phones. 

kahoot trivia game
Prairie State Society stumped us with this one—do you know the answer? (Hint: it’s not Obama!)

Though attendance was smaller than our usual After Hours, it was fun to see classmates in a social setting and having a shared activity is a good way to get around the awkwardness or staleness of virtual hang out. We were even joined by Dean Biddle (with her baby)!  I’ve found that having a shared activity greatly enhances virtual hang outs, and trivia was the perfect choice for all of us Harris nerds!

As for the rest of the quarter, we’re still planning to host Harries virtually, and Social Committee is working on some special treats for students for that, as well. While we might be spread across the globe the community at Harris will always find ways to be together.  

Read about how other Harris students are coping with COVID-19:

A Day in the (Virtual) Life of a Harris Student by Sabrina De La Vega, MPP Class of 2021
Graduating in the Midst of a Global Pandemic by Alec MacMillen, MSCAPP Class of 2020