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Forming Community, Online

August 28, 2020 by Elena Conway

Volunteers for yearly Summer Send-Offs for new Blue Jays successfully bring the tradition online

For many incoming undergraduates, the Summer Send-Off Parties mark the beginning of their life as a Johns Hopkins Blue Jay. These volunteer-hosted gatherings take place around the world, giving students the chance to connect in-person with other Blue Jay families coming from the same area and experience the support of the Hopkins community before they set foot on campus.

“We really appreciated having this opportunity when our son was an incoming freshman. It was so nice to hear from other Minnesota families and get helpful tips about the transition to college. That feeling of being welcomed to the Hopkins ‘nest’ was the inspiration for us to host the local event for the next five years,” say Bob and Jane Polansky, former chairs of the Hopkins Parents Council. Their son, Solomon, graduated from the Whiting School of Engineering with bachelors and master’s degrees in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

With classes moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it became more important than ever to convey the care and help available from the Hopkins community to new students and families, so this year, the Summer Send-Offs went virtual, too.

The Parents Programs and Giving office provided volunteers with everything required to run the remote events smoothly, from agendas containing talking points to assistance using the Zoom platform.

“The virtual event was impeccably organized,” says Nandini Ramakrishna, who hosted the central Florida event for the first time this year with her husband and daughter after attending a 2019 Summer Send-Off. “From keeping us informed weeks ahead of time to giving me all the necessary details to play the role of host as the event drew closer, it was a meticulously planned operation.”

All of that preparation helped Hopkins volunteers reach a wider audience than previous years. The number of events rose by a third and participants nearly doubled from the 2019 send-off events, increasing participation from 22% to 35% of the incoming class.

The Polanskys say the Minnesota event is always a valuable opportunity for new students to ask questions. Those who attended this year’s event focused on advice for successfully approaching the upcoming online fall semester.

“It was great for students to hear from our son and the other student ambassador what it was like to have virtual classes the second half of spring semester, and to hear how helpful and available professors and teaching assistants were in this new format,” Bob Polansky says. “It is still possible for them to form community, even if it is in a Zoom format.”

What advice would these volunteer leaders give to potential remote event hosts?

“Be welcoming, smile, and show your Blue Jay spirit by wearing some Hopkins swag or hanging a banner. And don’t forget to pick a comfortable chair to sit in during the event!” Jane Polansky says.

“Welcome and embrace the opportunity,” Ramakrishna says. “The JHU organizing teams make the whole experience effortless and enjoyable. The most rewarding part of hosting was sharing our pride for JHU’s mission and our excitement for its leadership and example in the world, and we enjoyed sparking anticipation for the rewarding journey that awaits the new Blue Jays.”


If you would like more information about the Summer Send-Offs or are interested in participating in next year’s events, please email

Topics: Alumni, Faculty and Staff, Parents, Undergraduate Student Experience, Strengthen Communities, Support Scholars