A collage of several screenshots from Net Impact's Instagram account

Sustaining Connections

When University of Oregon operations shifted to virtual platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student organizations had to navigate the challenges of this new learning environment. Many found ways to take advantage of the unique opportunities provided by virtual settings.

One such organization is the undergraduate chapter of Net Impact, an international, student-run nonprofit organization with a focus on sustainable business practices.

Although their biggest events of the school year—a study tour to network in San Francisco and the SPRNG Sustainability Conference—were cancelled, the group’s executive team has found innovative ways to maintain meaningful engagement among club members while advocating for sustainability in the realm of business.

Social media has been a powerful tool in building the Net Impact community during this period of remote learning. Net Impact’s vice president of marketing, second-year student Sharon Sherpa, has introduced new ways to use the organization’s social media platforms, primarily Instagram.

Through the use of skillfully designed graphics and interactive activities—such as games and giveaways—Sherpa has transformed Instagram into the club’s central hub of communication. Members use the platform to further encourage club engagement and stay up-to-date on weekly events.

“It’s amazing to see how big of a role social media has played in connecting people virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning,” Sherpa said.

Not only is social media strengthening ties among club members, it’s also expanding their network on a national scale. Earlier this spring, the graduate chapter of Columbia University’s Net Impact group reached out to UO’s undergraduate chapter via Instagram with an open invitation to a Net Impact chapter mingle event. Other participating chapters included Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business and John Hopkins Carey Business School. Event hosts incorporated virtual games and breakout rooms to help foster both friendly and professional connections amongst the different chapters.

Net Impact stood out as the only undergraduate chapter to attend the event. This gave members the valuable opportunity to learn from graduate students who came from a wide range of backgrounds, including consulting work and entrepreneurship.

Although individual chapters operate according to their own regulations, they are all united by Net Impact’s greater mission as an international nonprofit organization to use business leadership skills to support social and environmental justice. With this overarching value driving each club’s goals, members were able to share and gain new inspiration for ideas that they could introduce to their own chapter.

This first-time event was a great success. Net Impact is excited to continue developing these new relationships and to further explore other opportunities that can be made possible through the power of social media.

“I definitely miss being able to interact with people in person, but meeting people virtually has allowed me to interact with people from all over the world, and has allowed me to gain new perspectives,” Sherpa said.

Visit Net Impact Undergraduate on Instagram

—Terri Chrestenson, Class of 2022