“Rolling with the punches” : SUAB creates memories despite pandemic
By Cara McCarthy
As a student at Framingham State, there is a good chance you have taken part in at least one event held by the Student Union Activities Board (SUAB).
Whether it be its wildly popular Bingo nights or Stuff-A-Bear events, SUAB has been one of the driving forces in creating a range of memorable events for the FSU community and the COVID-19 pandemic has only reinforced their mission.
In March 2020, SUAB, along with every other organization on campus, was forced to find alternative ways to engage with students over Zoom instead of the McCarthy Center Forum.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sonia Strawn, senior sociology major and president of SUAB, said because they did not have an advisor for much of the 2019-20 academic year, she stepped up when the SUAB eBoard needed to come up with a plan.
“I held weekly meetings with all of my eBoard members to give them that extra support that we weren’t getting while the school was still trying to hire someone as our advisor,” she said.
“But luckily, the second half of the semester we got our current advisor, Jorge, and he’s amazing,” Strawn added.
She said when COVID-19 hit, SUAB took several weeks to come up with a plan to continue throughout the pandemic. She added it was thanks to their advisor, and Assistant Director of SILD Jorge Gonzalez, that they continued to host virtual events.
“It was such a shocking and stressful time for everyone personally, and academically with their classes as well,” Strawn said. “So we still tried to do some events throughout the rest of the semester.”
While SUAB faced many challenges at the start of the pandemic, Strawn said they have made strides his year in terms of being creative with their events to include as many students as possible.
Some events SUAB held last year included Kahoots because they were “easy to navigate virtually.”
This year, SUAB began holding pick-up events in order to adhere to the University’s COVID-19
regulations and promote social distancing.
Strawn said, “We can only have two people [SUAB members] at once working the table and then only a few students coming in to pick up something at a time. So it’s definitely been tough. Attendance has gone down significantly across the board.”
As part of her goal to bring the FSU community together, Strawn said throughout her two years as president, she made it her mission to co-sponsor more events on campus with other organizations.
“It’s just a lot of fun to bring organizations together instead of keeping everyone in their isolated groups,” she said. “It’s great publicity for everyone’s organizations.”
One event SUAB co-sponsored was a Stuff-A-Ram event with the Student Government Association.
Annalisa Marzeotti, a junior criminology major and vice president of SUAB, said one of the programs she was planning, but had to pause because of COVID-19, was a mental health awareness event for students around midterms and finals.
“I had all these mental health goodies like positive emotion cards, resources, and pamphlets,” Marzeotti said. “I had all these bags. I wanted people to come in and be able to pick up the individual things and put what they wanted in the bags. ... But we couldn’t do it.
“To say that it broke my heart is a bit of an understatement,” she added.
However, thanks to the Stuff-A-Ram event, SUAB and SGA were able to hold some form of mental health awareness campaign this year. Marzeotti said it was an “incredible” event despite the restrictions put in place.
She added, “They can’t stuff them in the room with us. We can’t have that really cool swing set that we got last year. We can’t have food. We can’t have any of it. It’s sad because Stuff-A-Ram used to be this gigantic thing.”
In typical years, Marzeotti said SUAB would buy close to 300 bears and would run out soon after the event started.
She added this year, they bought approximately 70 Rams and weren’t sure if they would have a large enough turnout to run out. To Marzeotti’s surprise, they once again ran out soon after the event started.
The SUAB mission statement says, “SUAB creates memory-making events for students to build a diverse and inclusive community on campus.”
SUAB also took the opportunity this year to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with an entertaining reward for those who donated. For every $50 raised for St. Judes, a different FSU employee would be pied in the face, according to Marzeotti.
She said the fundraiser was an event especially personal to her because one of her childhood nannies would take her to St. Jude Children’s Hospital to volunteer. She helped decorate rooms families could stay in while their children received treatment.
“I helped her paint one of the rooms that the family stays in,” Marzeotti said. “It’s a very small room, but it’s also very nice.”
Some of the employees who were selected to receive a pie in the face included the Area Director of Miles Bibb and Linsley Halls Marcie Dineen, Area Director of West, Peirce, and Horace Mann Halls David Case, Men’s Hockey Coach Michael Bailey, General Council for the University Ann McDonald, and Vice President for Enrollment and Student Development Lorretta Holloway.
The videos of the faculty members being pied can be viewed on SUAB’s TikTok and Instagram accounts, @fsusuab. Holloway’s pie video can be viewed on her Instagram, @lhollowayvp_fsu.
While SUAB has not been able to hold their events in person, one annual tradition has made its return to campus – Sandbox.
According to Celia Marchese, traditions coordinator and sophomore early education major, “My position requires organizing events that instill Ram Pride and tradition in the FSU community including, but not limited to, Sam the Ram’s Birthday, Winter Welcome Week, and Sandbox.”
Sandbox is a time-honored tradition that SUAB hosts on the last day of classes every year at which clubs can hand out merchandise and recruit for next year.
Additionally, the event typically has several attractions for students. In past years, Sandbox has featured a bouncy house, fortune tellers, and cotton candy vendors.
Marchese said, “I am so excited to finally bring Sandbox back to campus since we never got to have one last year.”
Last year, due to COVID-19, SUAB had to cancel the end-of-year event because campus was closed. Marchese said Sandbox “won’t be the same as usual, but we will try our best to make it feel normal.”
The event will be held May 7, the last day of classes, in Maynard Lot behind West Hall. According to Marchese, there can only be 100 people at the event at a time and students will have to check in, similar to how they check in for COVID-19 testing.
In addition to organizing FSU’s time-honored traditions, Marchese is also required to plan an event on campus that raises awareness for a specific subject.
This year, she decided to organize an event to raise awareness for mental health called, “Smile: A Comedy Show about Clinical Depression,” which will be held on April 25.
Junior biology major Abigail Guardado has been attending SUAB events since her freshman year because it allows her to interact with other people which has been a challenge for her because she is a commuter.
“SUAB has brought me closer to the school community and even though things may have been different this year, SUAB still found a way to keep everyone entertained,” she said.
Guardado commended SUAB for continuing to push through the pandemic and providing some form of relief from the state of the world.
“I think, given the circumstances, SUAB has done a great job with planning and hosting events in a pandemic-friendly way,” Guardado said.
Junior child and family studies major Emily Parker said, “I think SUAB has done a great job at holding events both virtually and in person, safely.”
Parker said, “They advertise the events really well on social media and that’s how many people find out about them – including myself.”
She added she enjoys taking part in SUAB activities because it gives her the chance to meet new people at FSU.
Parker’s favorite event SUAB did this year was “Drag Bingo.”
“It was a very outside-of-the-box type of Bingo,” she added. “I also felt more engaged and wanted to get to know the drag queens. It was very interactive and I had a great time.”
Despite the challenges SUAB has faced, Strawn said they have continued to “roll with the punches” and feel fortunate they were able to continue building and supporting the community with fun and innovative events during COVID-19.
Strawn added, “Don’t stress yourself out so much because things are always changing. We’re living through this unpredictable time where we don’t know what’s going to happen day by day.”
Marzeotti said even though we are living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, she encourages everyone on campus to get involved in a club.
“Even if you think you’re shy, come into the Zoom call. Hang out,” she said, “There are so many other wonderful organizations on this campus. And I think having that support system can be so great.”
Marchese said, “My advice for all the Rams reading this article is don’t be shy when it comes to SUAB. We welcome any new members and anyone who just wants to attend our events.
“If you feel like you don’t have a place on campus, join SUAB,” she added. “We are an outgoing group of people who just want to make everyone feel included.”