WASHINGTON, PA (June 4, 2020) -- Plans for the annual spring concert at W&J were moving along in early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Student Government Association (SGA) to cancel the event. When the students came back to school in the fall, they wanted to bring back the special end-of-year experience, but they faced a very different landscape.
A new school year meant a new SGA executive board, and concert planning fell to a new student leader—Vice President Gabby Pasternak ’22. Students were scattered due to a mix of on-campus and remote learning, while COVID safety requirements brought into question whether an event of this caliber would even be possible. To top it all off, the student’s beloved staff advisor announced her retirement, set to begin right around crunch time for planning the spring event.
Without a designated staff advisor, it was up to the students to make the decisions and coordinate with others across the College to help their vision come together. Their first call was to hold a virtual concert to accommodate as many students as possible while still observing safety precautions.
“Going into the concert, I had very high expectations. I wanted this event to be memorable for students and bring some normalcy back. Little did I know how many days and months would go into planning a virtual concert,” Gabby said.
The SGA executive board determined the location of an on-campus concert screening for students in residence, the food trucks and other additions to help make the event feel special, and most importantly the artist performing— popular indie pop rock band AJR. Gabby became the point person for communicating not only with W&J staff, but also food truck vendors, talent agents, and show producers to coordinate the event.
“It was a large task to say the least. I spent a lot of free time answering or sending emails, in meetings, or just researching for the event,” she said. “It was great to enhance my time management skills. I learned how to prioritize things as well…[and] I tried to delegate as best as possible. The concert wouldn’t have been possible without all the people that supported me this semester. “
A pride point for the SGA was the inclusion of Class of 2020 grads in the event, who were sent exclusive streaming access reserved for W&J students to help make up for their lost senior year concert. During the event, spectators at home and in-person were encouraged to share their thoughts on social media using the hashtag “#WJAJR,” and their posts were shown in real time on screen during the broadcast.
Though a challenge, Gabby was grateful for the community effort that helped make the event as SGA imagined it a reality. In addition to the hard-working student committee that put together the event, she shared that several staff members were essential to the process. She wants to thank Maureen Valentine, Director of Conferences and Events; Tory Irwin, Internal Communications Manager; Chuck Watts, Assistant Director for Network Services; Scott McGuinness, Athletic Director; Facility Services; and Dean Eva Chatterjee-Sutton, Dean of Student Life for their contributions.
“This experience has taught me so much and I am very grateful for it. I was able to enhance my leadership, communication, and time management skills,” Gabby said. “These will all be vital in my future law career so even though at the time it was extremely stressful, I am beyond blessed to have had this opportunity.”
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY