Family Weekend, a long-time Bowdoin tradition, has gone fully virtual for the fall 2020 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The celebration, which started yesterday and will end on Saturday, features a mix of synchronous and asynchronous online events intended to recreate some of the essence of the traditionally in-person occasion.
“The goal was to have as many events as possible stay the same,” said Nina Weyl, associate director of family giving and engagement and one of the co-planners of the event, in a phone interview with the Orient.
Sarah and James Bowdoin Day, a Family Weekend staple usually celebrated in Pickard Theater, will be held asynchronously this year. It will be accessible through a specially-designed Bowdoin website that will include a list of student scholars and congratulatory remarks from President Clayton Rose and Senior Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs Jennifer Scanlon.
The website will feature a list of Sarah and James Bowdoin Day scholars, Book Award winners and newly-elected members of the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. The recipients of the Almon Goodwin Prize, given to exemplary members of Phi Beta Kappa, will also be celebrated on the website.
Michelle Morin, assistant director of events and planner of Sarah and James Bowdoin Day, believes the new online format offers something that an in-person event can’t.
“The website model is giving us an opportunity to publicly acknowledge scholars and their accomplishments for a broader Bowdoin community to access,” wrote Morin in an email to the Orient.
Students who are to be honored were sent an email detailing their achievements and describing how they will be showcased on the website. To qualify as a Sarah and James Bowdoin scholar, students must have earned grade point averages in the top 20 percent of their class during the previous academic year. The Book Award is given to Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars who earned a 4.0 GPA during the 2019-2020 academic year.
Additionally, the traditionally in-person President’s Summer Research Symposium will be offered as a scheduled event through the Bowdoin Family Weekend website, going live today at 4 p.m. It will feature videos of students presenting their research, which they would normally have done in Morrell Gymnasium.
The two other synchronous events—question-and-answer sessions held by Rose, Scanlon and Senior Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs Janet Lohmann—are being held on Thursday at 7 p.m. EDT and Saturday at 10 a.m. EDT. Both events require an online reservation and are accessible through the Bowdoin Family Weekend website.
Planners of the Family Weekend events strove for inclusivity. For the first time in Bowdoin’s history, question-and-answer sessions will have Spanish subtitles. The combination of synchronous and asynchronous offerings will also allow flexibility for Bowdoin families who might not have normally been able to attend Family Weekend.
“Whether you’re in China, Seattle, Texas or just down the road in Falmouth, Maine, it’s important that everyone can have the same experience from this unique opportunity to gather virtually,” said Weyl.
To notify the Bowdoin community about the virtual Family Weekend event programming, Weyl and her colleague Sarah Phinney, coordinator of reunion programs, have been reaching out through Facebook and Instagram. According to Weyl, many Bowdoin parents have already registered for the two live question-and-answer sessions.
“Many families have never been able to travel to Maine for Family Weekend before,” said Weyl. “We hope that this gives all families the chance to have a taste of Bowdoin at home.”