Like many other campus clubs and organizations, this academic group adapted to the present circumstances by meeting digitally while students are away. It’s a historic “first” that may never happen again.

By Michael Lehman, Editor-in-Chief

On Sunday, April 26, 17 students and four faculty members attended President Sherilyn Emberton’s annual reception for HU’s chapter of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society. Like every year, the group used this day to celebrate the year’s accomplishments, to say thank-yous, and to wish the graduating seniors farewell. They even snapped their annual group photo.

But unlike previous years, this time the event had to switch to a digital format. Instead of inviting the students into her home like usual, President Emberton hosted a Zoom meeting for students scattered across the states.

The change was one of many made my HU’s clubs and organizations to accommodate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which canceled all campus activities and forced classes to move to an online format back in mid-March.

A SILLY SCREENSHOT: HU’s Alpha Chi members pose for a “silly photo” (or, at least, most of them do). The group would normally take these photos on the steps in President Emberton’s living room. (Photo provided by Ruth Nalliah)

This is not the first time the group has met over Zoom. A week before the president’s “virtual reception,” members of Alpha Chi met over Zoom to elect a few officers for the 2020-2021 academic year. These new officers — incoming president Brooke Richison and incoming vice president Paris Dirscherl — will meet again with current officers over Zoom on Monday, May 4.

But for most of Alpha Chi’s members — who are selected by GPA status and inducted into the group early each fall semester — the president’s reception was the last event of the year. The chapter used part of this time to reflect on the campus activities it organized these past several months.

One of these events was a theatre talkback after You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which occurred just a week before many students left campus for spring break and stay-at-home mandates were issued.

“The chapter had a very strong year with coordinating its yearly academic enrichment activities, including the Graduate School Forum, Are You Smarter Than a College Student game, and two theatre talkbacks,” said Ruth Nalliah, regional president of the chapter and chair of HU’s chemistry department.

In addition to interrupting Alpha Chi’s in-person monthly meetings, COVID-19 also canceled the group’s biggest event of the year: the Alpha Chi National Convention, which was supposed to take place on May 19-21. Every year, a handful of the chapter’s members travel to a distant city to compete for scholarships at this conference by presenting projects they’ve completed in their respective areas of study.

While this year’s convention in Albuquerque, NM was canceled, four HU students had the opportunity to submit their presentations by video. All four of them either won a scholarship or were named as an “alternate” for a scholarship.

COMPETING WITHOUT A CONVENTION: Sommer Rose Vadeboncoeur gives a national academic presentation from home. (Photo provided by Ruth Nalliah)

Junior Trent Yentes won a national scholarship for “The Charter of Privileges and Its Influence on Democracy.”

“[I]t was a pretty cool honor, and I was really excited about it,” Yentes said. “Plus, the scholarship will help [for] paying tuition, which I am really grateful for.”

Two regional scholarship/fellowship winners were named: senior Ellie Lawson for “A Descriptive Study of Auto-Genocide in Ancient Angkor” and junior Ashley Spirek for “The Eternal Soul: A Comparative Analysis of Incompatible Views.”

Alternate regional scholarship/fellowship winners were senior Sommer Rose Vadeboncoeur for “Robert Schumann’s Geistervariationen: An Analysis” and Yentes once again for “The Telegraph and Its Influence on America.”

“It is very humbling to see one’s own work succeed in such a highly competitive environment,” Vadeboncoeur said. “Everyone told my mom we would not succeed in college because we were homeschooled, so I like bringing achievements like this home for my mom because she worked so hard to get me through school as well as dealing with my illness. I’m so proud HU swept the regional awards!”