2021-09 From the President: Hello UMRA members!
This is my first column as UMRA’s president, and I’m looking forward to the year ahead. As I write this, it’s not yet clear when we will be able to meet again in person and inside, but we’ve begun to plan our transition back, or, maybe more accurately, our transition forward, since our post-pandemic UMRA activities may be different in some ways from the “before” days.
Despite not being able to get together in person during the pandemic, UMRA members found new ways to connect, and the organization was able to broaden and deepen its relationships with members and other retirees who may join in the future.
Starting in early 2020, UMRA began to experiment with multiple monthly programs, at different times of day. We found that the monthly living well workshops that were held previously at the Campus Club and had drawn typically 30 to 40 people could engage many more of our members online than what we thought was possible. During this last year, while meeting virtually, our workshops often have had 80 to 90 or more people in attendance, joining from wherever in the world they happened to be.
We started a Facebook group, mostly with members, but also open to other University retirees, and there are now 135 people using the page.
Reaching a broader audience
Our special interest groups are going strong. The leaders of the Photo Club, Armchair Traveler, Financial and Legal Affairs Group, and UMRA Book Club adapted quickly to using Zoom, and these groups have met throughout the pandemic. UMRA members also created and are leading three new interest groups, on family history, Zoom technology, and a second book club. Attendance at some interest group meetings has on occasion exceeded the attendance we used to expect for our monthly UMRA programs. UMRA programs are reaching a broader audience.
My thanks to all the members who completed our recent programming survey, designed and administered by UMRA President-elect Ron Matross. Among the things we learned from the survey are that UMRA members want to meet again in person as soon as possible. However, and in overwhelming numbers, they also appreciate being able to attend virtually. In particular, a great majority of our members expressed a preference for keeping our January and February programs virtual, which would also preserve an option to participate for members who travel to other climates at that time of year.
A task force led by Past President Frank Cerra is now at work looking at when and how we return to in-person programs and what the post-pandemic operations of UMRA may look like. Its members include three additional past presidents, with many cumulative years of experience with UMRA, and members who are newer to the organization and bring fresh perspectives.
As a member of the task force, I can say that it is a joyful task because of the great current of energy that is running through our members and this organization, even in these times that challenge us to stay connected.
I’ll end this month’s column with Frank Cerra’s devout “Stay well,” and add “Stay connected.”
—Jan Morlock, UMRA president