University continues gym opportunities, new fire pits to engage students socially

A+fire+pit+was+recently+added+to+Sanford+Mall+for+students+to+gather+around.+This+is+one+of+the+many+COVID-safe+activities+the+university+has+added+this+semester.

Becca Bridges

A fire pit was recently added to Sanford Mall for students to gather around. This is one of the many COVID-safe activities the university has added this semester.

Hollie Moore, Reporter

An academic year during a pandemic is not quite as daunting for App State students as new activities, opportunities and changes arise on campus, aimed to mend a few of the setbacks stemming from safety regulations.

University Recreation and Campus Activities directors have introduced new ways for students to stay engaged despite limitations from fewer in-person events and parts of campus being shut down

Senior April Halterman has been an instructor for UREC activities for two years, teaching classes such as AppFire, Boone Booty Blast and HIIT.

“I see people wanting to work harder since COVID has limited gym experiences,” Halterman said. “People want to engage and talk to you, they are more ready to work and are excited to be there.”

Richard Campbell, associate director of University Recreation, said UREC provides the option for students to sign up for activities. These include intramural sports, virtual or in-person group fitness classes, gym equipment, the climbing wall, basketball, outdoor programs trips, the pool, and other activities through online scheduling.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Feb. 24 that gyms can operate at 50% capacity, allowing UREC to open more space for students in classes. 

“I think sometimes it can be intimidating for people to be in these classes, so being virtual has opened that up for anyone with social anxieties,” Kate Bridgers, a sophomore UREC instructor of virtual yoga, said.

Campus Activities and Appalachian Popular Programming Society have introduced new changes to provide safe ways for entertainment and socialization.

APPS has partnered with the Schaefer Center to offer socially distanced movies for up to 100 people every other week this semester. They have also introduced Front Desk concerts and Spring Break on Sanford, an in-person event held March 10 with free food and games.

“The first movie was around the end of last semester. The attendance was fantastic, considering many students had left campus and returned home” says Sarah Kelley, APPS Films chairperson. “The process has been delightful. It does get stressful when the dates are very close together, but it is still a fun process overall.”

Beth Holcomb, associate director of Campus Activities, said over the past year, Campus Activities has been trying to come up with different ways to keep students engaged. She said the goal is to create safe and warm outdoor spaces for students to gather in the cooler months.

A fire pit was constructed on Sanford Mall over winter break for students to gather in the colder months in cooperation with campus COVID-19 policies. 

Brad Vest, associate director for Plemmons Student Union and Legends, said the fire pit isn’t open for reservations, and is available for everyone to have access.

“I usually do my homework around it,” Kaitlin Andrews, a Plemmons Student Union staff member who helps run the fire pit, said. “It has helped being outside and a few people have already come.”

Additionally, the union purchased two fire tables, or fire pits above ground, which are placed on Howard’s Knob Patio on the third floor of the student union.