Pandemic Brings Unique Spirit-Wear Opportunity

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Pandemic Brings Unique Spirit-Wear Opportunity


Samantha Tietjen and Andrew Scherer, SPS Members, Cleveland State University

Samantha Tietjen wears an SPS mask during the 2021 Spring Commencement ceremony held at Progressive Field. Photos courtesy of Tietjen.Cleveland State University (CSU) completed its spring 2020 semester online and had extremely limited on-campus capacity for the 2020–21 academic year. While the COVID-19 shutdown was an unprecedented experience for everyone, it did have some unexpected silver linings.

Prior to the pandemic, we had discussed redesigning our chapter T-shirt to better represent the next generation of SPS officers and members. However, mandatory masking presented an interesting opportunity. With a push from our chapter advisor, Dr. Streletzky, we decided to pitch a small change of plan. Rather than make new T-shirts, how about SPS-themed masks? With the then-proposed return to partial campus activities, it seemed more timely than a T-shirt update.

Several designs were pitched by officers, including science puns, colorful decals, and a patterned mask. Ultimately we decided that the best design was the simple, but well-loved chapter logo. The masks would serve as a form of chapter pride for members as well as an effective advertising opportunity—they would be worn around campus when the classes and labs were allowed to reopen.

The hardest part of making this pitch a reality was obtaining funding for the project. Department funds were tight. Pandemic-related budget restrictions were affecting all CSU operations. But as safety measures and vaccine rollouts began to pick up across the country, CSU was able to open up more parts of campus. This meant some funding was available to student organizations. Once we had the money, the mask order went in. There was some extra processing time caused by pandemic slowdowns, but they arrived just in time for the end of the fall semester.

The masks were well received by CSU’s SPS members and faculty. The initial batch were given out as prizes for the winners of the 2021 online version of Physics Jeopardy. They were also sported by the spring 2021 graduating physics majors during the first in-person commencement ceremony since the start of the pandemic. The chapter’s masks definitely stood out on the jumbotron as SPS students received their hard-earned diplomas at the end of one of the most bizarre academic periods in recent history.

While they may not be the most standard piece of chapter pride, the masks are certainly the most unique we’ve had to date. They’ll serve as a reminder for years to come of this extraordinary period in the chapter’s, and the world’s, history.

CSU’s mask design by Andrew Scherer, featuring a logo drawn by Samantha Tietjen.

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