March Madness has been converted to Mask Madness at the University of Vermont.
During the month of February, Campus Recreation solicited students both on and off campus to submit a photo of their face mask. A student selection committee then would pick the top masks that would go in the March Mask Madness Tournament bracket.
“Our hope is to connect students who might feel disconnected from the university right now,” said Tom Dougherty, the assistant director of Campus Recreation. “We know some students opted to stay at home and might be missing campus life. If we can engage with a mix of those students and on-campus individuals that would be great.”
Plus, Dougherty recognizes not every student feels comfortable coming in and participating in their programs right now. Their hope is this program also connects these students with Campus Recreation.
The Logistics of Mask Madness
All in all, the format is very similar to a March Madness Bracket. Dougherty shared the set up:
- Mask entries are submitted via a google form on the department’s website.
- A committee of Campus Recreation student employees will rank their favorites, creating a bracket.
- During a 1.5 weeks in March, the matchups will be posted via social media stories and followers can vote using the poll feature. Masks with the most votes advance.
Dougherty shared if any colleagues are interested, they have more info and some FAQs for Mask Madness on their webpage.
Advice on Creative Programming
Coming up with creative program after creative program can be a challenge. Dougherty shared three tips:
- “I’ve received a lot of inspiration from the online community within the NIRSA message boards, in addition to the Facebook group ‘Collegiate Recreation – Sport Programs Administrators,’” he said. “These have been great resources for learning more about how different people are programming, such as esports, trivia, to modifying formats for traditional sports. This mask idea actually evolved from a similar bracket competition University of Rhode Island Campus Rec hosted in the Fall.”
- Ask the students. “Most of our virtual events came from the suggestions of student employees or participants,” he shared.
- “We also have a great marketing team here — shoutout Kate — which definitely has helped to spread our program information throughout other media streams within the institution,” he explained.
In fact, the biggest inspiration for Dougherty has been seeing the collaboration that has taken place over the past year. “Overall, the constant sharing of ideas and creativity amidst this pandemic has been inspiring and has further strengthened the value that collegiate recreation provides to our institutions,” he said.
That collaboration has allowed for some great ideas to flow, like Mask Madness, in order to serve students better. So ultimately, whatever the success of Mask Madness, Dougherty and the department’s aim is in the right place: to help students feel connected with Campus Recreation and know they are being thought about.
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