Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Harsha Paladugu

Just as many lives and the semester came to a screeching unplanned halt, HFAC was planning its yearly trip to New York; in the thick of lining up sponsors and arranging travel accommodations, we spent the following weeks unwinding the event and figuring out how to accommodate our sponsors for the remainder of the semester. But that turned out to be the smallest of our problems.

My co-president, Daniel, and I took the decisive steps to halt any mandatory HFAC activity for the week before spring break and made the decision to bring restart slowly to enter a post-COVID / post-Zoom world. Coming out of our self-imposed COVID break, the club atmosphere was characterized with tension from program managers on continuing their programs, compers worried about accessibility issues and a general struggle to adapt to a world contained within a 13.3’-inch computer screen.

However, most of this quickly dissipated. Taking some learnings from SOCIOL 1130, we instituted weekly check-ins at board meetings and the lively and humorous board members began to re-emerge – from the Freshman with funny Zoom backgrounds to the Junior proselytizing the power of K-dramas. Likewise, across the organization, things began to shift to a new sense of normalcy. We cancelled “sections” for our education programs and shifted to an office hour-based format. It was wonderful to see new faces and talk in a more frictionless format with underclassmen.

Most of these changes were made following deep discussion and surveys performed by our board members – I’m proud of our ability to pause, reflect and re-engage during a time of crisis. I hope we are able to continue on this trajectory as we look forward to new (perhaps, unexpected) challenges closing out the remainder of the semester and into the next one!

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