Santa Spreads Good Cheer at CSE

An online White Elephant lifts spirits and strengthens community.
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Santa and his partner display gifts during the White Elephant gift exchange.

‘Twas the afternoon before holiday break, and faculty and staff at CSE were closing browser windows and ending Zoom sessions. Some grading remained, but a long and challenging Fall 2020 was behind the CSE community.

“This fall was hard for everyone,” says Kelly Cormier, the Unit Administrator at CSE. “One of the things that I’ve been worried about has been our community, and keeping us all connected.”

So when Sylvia Galaty, CSE Financial Aid Coordinator, suggested to Cormier that CSE hold its annual White Elephant gift exchange virtually this year, Cormier encouraged her to make it work.

Galaty arranged for the party to take place on Zoom. It would follow the traditional rules, but would be adapted for distanced participation. Participants would drop off their wrapped presents at the building in advance of the event and pick up their gifts individually at a later date.

The centerpiece of the effort was Santa and his assistants. Prior to the event, Santa, played by CSE Facilities Coordinator Brian Rice, with assistance from his student crew Isaiah Keeler and Cameron Kobalinski, arranged all of the gifts, each with a number, in a Beyster Building conference room. During the event, Rice and his partner for the event, CSE Senior Administrative Assistant Christa Carr, unwrapped and described gifts, and kept track of whose gift was whose, even as the most popular items were “stolen” again and again.

“It was so much fun,” says CSE Administrative Assistant Diane Crang. “It was like being in the studio audience for a participative game show. Santa and his helper really made this work.”

“All through the fall, we’ve held a number of activities and events to keep students, faculty, and staff connected,” says Cormier. “I want to recognize everyone’s efforts in organizing and participating in CSE’s Fall M Healthy activities (Chris Firlik and Taylor Bruns), the CSE listening sessions (CSE UAO staff), and our “Chats for Hats” event (Steve Crang, Zach Champion, Cindy Estell, Kelly Cormier), as well as our traditional academic activities, including faculty and lab meetings, the CSE Honors Competition, guest lectures, and the activities of student teams and groups. We’re determined to maintain our culture during these trying times.”