“It takes hundreds of volunteers and staffing and outside services coming in to actually do a commencement for the amount of students that we graduate here, so trying to put the brakes on all of that and go into a virtual environment when none of us had done it before, it really was challenging,” Allen said.
This event was just the start of an entire collection of new approaches to event planning for Allen, who not only organized other virtual events for the Office of the President this year, but also supervised the COVID-19 testing at the NAU Fieldhouse that over the course of the fall semester administered more than 34,000 COVID-19 tests.
“Event planners are skilled in logistics and details, that’s what we do. We’re thinking from invitation lists all the way through napkin colors, through what food to serve and name tags — detail, detail, detail and logistics and movement, and those skills just really translated to a testing site,” Allen said, describing the factors needed in a testing site, including space for social distancing, nonporous surfaces for easy cleaning, available parking for community members and a secure storage room.
The Fieldhouse rose to the top of the list of potential locations for a testing site, she said, because unlike the Walkup Skydome on campus, there were no other activities likely to occur there.
“For me, going into this, it was a little scary. No one really knew what was happening overall with this virus and how fast it spreads and all of those things, so to think about having to come in and work a testing site was a little intimidating until we got up to speed on how do you keep yourself safe with appropriate PPE and wiping down surfaces and wearing masks,” Allen said.