UDC’s Virtual World Expo finds success in alternative digital event model

Nathan Lesch, Executive Editor

Earlier this month, Case Western Reserve University’s Undergraduate Diversity Collaborative (UDC) held an ambitious series of events—their Virtual World Expo celebration. Running the first full week in October, from Oct. 5 to Oct. 10, UDC’s Virtual World Expo featured a daily email blast that included questions or activities related to one or two of the eight pillars of diversity and inclusion that UDC is based on. UDC chose this format, instead of the typical Zoom format many student organizations have adopted, to reduce the pressure to attend and to alleviate fatigue students are feeling toward Zoom, while still making the event accessible to students living both on-campus and off-campus alike. Each day, participants could win prizes, and if an individual participated each day throughout the week, they were entered into a raffle for one of two Nintendo Switch Lites with the game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” All told, 245 people participated in the Virtual World Expo, with around 150 showing up on all six days.

In a normal year, UDC would have organized an in-person World Expo event. However, UDC took pains to make their virtual equivalent as authentic as possible. The questions and activities included in each day’s event were collected from the organizations under UDC’s umbrella, mimicking the tables these organizations have set up in years past where they would give away educational materials, as well as food and other items. Also consistent with previous years was the Virtual World Expo’s prize component. Much like the rest of the Virtual World Expo, UDC had to reconsider what types of prizes they gave out this year to accommodate CWRU students spread throughout the globe—all prizes had to be easily mailable, so UDC designed stickers, masks and touchless door opener keychain attachments to award to students who participated.

UDC’s VP of Public Relations, Vivian Pryor, and their VP of Programming, Katie Toledo, provided a joint statement reflecting on the successes of the event to The Observer.

“We both feel the event was extremely successful … We liked how the events each day were small enough that people would feel encouraged to participate,” the statement read. “We also felt it was beneficial that we strayed from the Zoom format because those types of events are limited in what can be done and people are also very Zoom-fatigued at this point of the year.”

Pryor and Toledo weren’t alone in thinking that the event was successful.

Fourth-year computer science major Zubair Mukhi also enjoyed the event. Mukhi participated throughout the week in the daily questions and activities and also interacted on social media a bit. They also talked to their friends about each day’s topics—age, ability, LGBTQ+ and gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion, respectively—and “reflected on [their] own privileges and identities over the course of the week.”

“I absolutely loved the World Expo,” Mukhi said. “I thought that the giveaway combined with thought-provoking questions were amazing and I’m definitely planning to stay engaged with UDC if any events occur before I graduate.”

Even though Mukhi volunteered at the in-person World Expo last year and has been on the UDC mailing list for a long time, the Virtual World Expo provided a unique and valuable look into CWRU’s diversity that they appreciated.

“World Expo is really cool to me because I feel like UDC promoting organizations sheds more light on the diverse identities of students at CWRU,” Mukhi said. “I think the team did a really, really good job of adapting to the different requirements of hosting a large event during a pandemic and that the way they went virtual was amazing.”

Second-year neuroscience major Alexis Bell was also present each morning of the week, and also greatly enjoyed the Expo.

“I thought it was a cool way to host a virtual event because it was interactive, but people were able to do it on their own time,” Bell said.

And, like Mukhi, Bell highlighted the thought-provoking nature of the questions and activities that UDC provided.

“I felt that it was introspective and made me consider aspects of society that I don’t normally think about,” Bell said.

UDC’s next event is coming up soon. On Nov. 7, from 6-7 p.m., UDC will be hosting an event for the Class Officer Collective’s Mental Health Week over Zoom. Participants will spend time watching Disney shorts and learning how to draw mandalas—with the goal being to relax and take a short break from the stresses of coursework.