Student Associations during the pandemic: life goes on with solidarity and creativity

ON March 16, life on the NEOMA campuses was brought to a halt. Even if the announcement of the confinement came as a real blow to the student societies, their members immediately showed great solidarity, with assistance becoming the watchword. Far from being discouraged, the students used their resourcefulness, know-how, creativity and ingenuity to ensure their activities continue...We take a look at some of these below.

NEOMA boasts a wide range of student societies. Arts, culture, multimedia, business, entrepreneurship, social responsibility and solidarity causes, sport, adventure... and more than 1200 students are involved in the projects throughout the year and which play such an important role in life at the School.

Shared goals: elections and new committees handovers

The election of a new committee is a crucial step in ensuring a student society's activities continue. The lists and nominations are really important, but the Covid-19 crisis and the confinement have really upset the schedules.

johan dallemans okJohan Dallemans - President of Team Challenge Écricome Rouen explains: "The new committee was recently elected thanks to a meeting on Zoom. Last year, the elections were held after the Ecricome Challenge event, so the candidates knew exactly what they were committing themselves to and were able to judge whether they had the shoulders to take on such an event. This year, with the unfortunate cancellation of the Challenge, we found ourselves in unknown territory: the students who take over the running of the society won't have experienced the event they'll be organizing next year. So, for this election, we modified our procedure. We sent the candidates a detailed explanatory document so they are fully aware of what their future task will involve, and we asked them to make a motivational video explaining how they perceive their role and outlining their ideas for next year's event. It was also a way of making sure the election was fair, allowing the voters to have a good idea of who the candidates are and what their project involves. We're waiting until the end of the lockdown to hold a handover weekend together. And of course, we'll be on hand next year as well, not in person, but in spirit, to support the new committee and answer their questions!

David Athea okThe slightly advanced schedule for some associations meant they avoided the stress of having to organise the elections online. This is the case of Altéo Conseil, the Rouen Junior Entreprise, for example. David Athéa, the outgoing Secretary General, explains: "This year, by pure chance and for practical reasons, our elections were brought forward. Therefore, there was no need to hold elections remotely. Regarding the handover, Altéo Conseil has been ISO 9001 certified for a number of years, which guarantees a perfect continuity of service. We work in a very structured way on handover processes with structured feedback and detailed job descriptions."

mylène coudreuse okMylène Coudreuse, President of NEOMA Reims Conseil, the Junior Enterprise on the Reims campus, until April 1, is in the same position. "For us, the new committee was elected in January, meaning the outgoing and incoming members could work together before the confinement. We call our successors regularly as a sign of encouragement, but they are already extremely motivated!"

The new President of NEOMA Reims Conseil, Benjamin Léger, adds : “The handover was assured remotely two weeks ago. Things are sorting themselves out because we're in constant contact and we communicate effectively using the social networks: Messenger, Snapchat, Zoom, Skype. We make sure that the information flows smoothly between all the Junior Entreprise members and we are doing everything we can to create a pleasant, family working environment.

Célia Bernardo, President of Envie D'Sup (Rouen), agrees that such a mindset is essential: “We send each other many messages to make sure everyone's okay. A sense of solidarity and family are essential values at NEOMA and something we really feel at the moment.

Discovering a passion for the legal aspects

Audits, General Assemblies, last minute cancellations, the NEOMA Student Association members are scrambling to get their heads round the legalities of the their status and contracts. A real challenge during a period of confinement. Johan Dallemans, President of Team Challenge Rouen, explains: "Following the announcement of the cancellation of Challenge Écricome, we held an emergency meeting to assess the expenses already incurred. We went through the contracts and then looked at the general terms of sale and found ourselves really enjoying the legal conditions applied to a cancellation in particular," he jokes. "I'm thinking, for example, of the buses that had been booked to take the students to Marseille (Ecricome Challenge 2020 host city). We're looking at how we can recover our costs and refund the students who registered for the challenge."

Benjamin leger okThe annual audits of Reims Junior-Enterprises have also been carried out during the confinement. "When we heard that the campuses were to close, we scanned as many paper documents as possible," explains Benjamin Léger, the new President of NEOMA REIMS Conseil. “ Right now, most of our documents are confined... with people who are confined! But we do have access to the essential documents and this was a priority".
"The audit will be done by videoconference on Skype and we'll present the documents to the auditors in this way." concludes Mylène, outgoing President.

Celia bernardo okCélia Bernardo, President of Envie D'Sup de Rouen chaired a confined closing General Assembly meeting. "I thought we could just organise it on Zoom," she explains. "But in reality, the rules aren't explicit on this point. And as it is important for our operation, there was no question of it not being organised properly. NEOMA's legal department informed us that the meeting could be held under several conditions: an agenda needed to be sent out and everyone had to be able to participate, and so this is what we did."

Finding alternative ways to continue with the missions

The pandemic has turned the Associations' management routines on their head, giving rise to innovative and hopeful alternatives!
David Athéa, Secretary General of Altéo Conseil Rouen, highlights one inspiring example.
"Our activity can be carried out almost 100% digitally and we can work on our missions by working from home. We are continuing to sign up for studies with clients and the 6 studies started before the confinement remain ongoing. Only the on-site phases have been postponed. However, we have found ourselves in a somewhat unusual situation. Due to the confinement, the treasurer, who is originally from New Caledonia, has returned home and the President has gone to Peru on exchange. So, currently, when we have meetings, we are juggling between 3 different time zones. This is totally new because it's not even the same day for all of us! This means we need to agree on the date of the minutes!"

manon morel ok2For Manon Morel, President of the 2020 Reims Musical, the challenge is to find an alternative for a much-awaited event: "The news of the confinement came as a huge shock for our Association. I've been working on the "Tutankhamun, the rise of a king" project for the past 2 years. We've given up our weekends over the past 6 months for this musical, and that's without counting time spent on rehearsals and costume and set design... None of the members have thought for one second about simply giving up. We have cancelled the March 20 and 21 performances and are waiting for the end of the confinement to contact the theatre and organise at least one performance in front of an audience should conditions be back to normal by July. If this is not possible, we're considering recording a performance behind closed doors on video and broadcasting the film to a wider audience later on. Our rehearsals are going on remotely. It's not easy for the dancers like me, but I know that the singers have been rehearsing their lines and songs together on Zoom!"

Another inventive idea is shared by Célia Bernardo and the members of Envie D'Sup de Rouen:
"As part of the support we provide for High School students, we had planned to hold a public speaking contest. The students had already attended a number of preparation workshops and done a lot of speaking and body language exercises. They had all practiced and were ready to speak in front of an audience that included the tutors and their fellow students plus a jury of 4 members. Due to the confinement, holding the contest in its original format was simply not possible. The format was therefore redesigned into a digital version and organised remotely. We challenged the participants to film their performance and send it to us. The jury members also accepted the challenge and they will assess the different speeches according to a specific score chart before passing on their feedback and advice for improvement to the students. The winners selected by the jury will receive a prize".

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Such initiatives demonstrate, more than ever, the commitment the students at NEOMA have for their Associations and the important role they play in their curriculum. The ideal opportunity to give a huge round of applause to all the NEOMA students involved in the pursuit of their Association's activities. Bravo for their creativity and perseverance that reflect the true NEOMA spirit: #StayAtHome_StayPassionate

For more information about the NEOMA student associations : click here

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