Student Activities Runs March Madness-Style Brackets with Andover Flair

Next in the arena: students’ favorite meals at Paresky Commons.

Despite not being able to interact with students on campus, Director of Student Activities Christopher Capano has found other ways to engage the Andover community. On Friday, April 10, Capano sent out the first “Social Distancing Weekender,” styled after “The Weekender,” which usually contains activities and events for students to attend while on-campus. Among the virtual events, which included ways for students to get involved remotely, was a “March Madness” style bracket.

Instead of basketball, though, Capano set local Andover restaurants head-to-head. Capano was inspired by Shannon McSweeney ’11, who ran similar lighthearted brackets for her workplace. Capano hopes the Andover-centric topics reconnect students with Andover.

“Every Friday, her company would do a bracket. They were the silliest topics in the world, like what’s the best pasta shape and what’s the best way to cook a potato and stuff. When they would have their lunch break, they would all debate it and have a bracket. I thought it was hilarious. I thought, ‘we should do that and just vote online.’ I was trying to think of things related to Andover and things you guys like, you know, what students like to do….We’re just trying to find things that make you think of Andover,” Capano said.

According to Capano, as many as 894 students voted during one round. Additional emails asked for topic suggestions, and Capano intends to release weekly brackets until the end of Spring Term. A second bracket, based on students’ favorite meals from Paresky Commons, has already been released, and results for the winners of each bracket will be released on Fridays. Capano explained the goal of these activities was to bring a spark of joy into students’ lives as many follow stay-at-home orders.

“We miss you all… We think a lot of you miss Andover, so anything we can do to find ways to connect to you and brighten your days— in this strange, very unprecedented event of staying home and not being able to interact with folks— any way we can get folks to interact and put a smile on their face is our goal,” said Capano.

Ridley Warner ’22 appreciates how this week’s Restaurant Bracket brought students fond memories during a time of difficulty. She recalled going to different restaurants with her friends and telling her parents about Andover.

“I really like how the school is keeping up with The Weekender… because it just helps keep a lighter tone to what’s going on right now in the world with quarantine. It offers us good little things to go and do throughout our day and participate in even though we aren’t physically at school,” she said.

Warner continued, “When it came out, it made me have a lot of memories from going to, for example, Gati with my friends. I had a long conversation with my parents about just the food that’s there and all the restaurants that were there. It gave me a little bit of a reminder of Andover, which was nice.”

The Student Activities Office has already hosted an online speed socializing event. According to Capano, they also plan to host a trivia night this upcoming weekend. Capano also encourages students to contact him or Stephanie Cormier, Student Program Coordinator, with any other suggestions for activities.

“This situation is new to everybody. I would love to make a plea that if anyone has ideas for things to do online or ways to do things— I think we’re planning to do an online open mic night using Zoom video for part of it— if anyone has ideas they want to send us, email me or Ms. Cormier. We would love to hear from you guys,” he said.

Dori Rosenstrauch ’23 said that bracket emails allowed her to connect with some of her classmates across the world.

“I think it’s a fun way for us to connect to campus during a time when we’re all scattered over the world… I think it’s really great. I’ve really been missing campus while we’re away, so it’s nice to have a way to be reminded of it and some of the best parts of it,” she said.

Irura Nyiha ’20 thought that engaging in online activities were important for students’ mental health. He expressed approval for the Student Activities Office’s efforts to engage students while away from Andover.

“They’re trying to keep up the school spirit and make people feel involved with Andover, which is important for people’s mental health because these times can be a bit depressing. I think they’re doing a good job,” Nyiha said.