What to Expect from this Year’s Hybrid WLC

Recently, the HOBY World Leadership Congress Vice Chair Team made an important announcement: this year’s WLC, which will take place from July 25th-31st, will be a hybrid seminar. The decision had been anticipated eagerly by volunteers, parents, and participants alike for several months, but in addition to excitement, the announcement was met with some confusion. What exactly does “hybrid” mean?

In this blog, I’ll cover things you should expect from this year’s hybrid seminar (the first hybrid WLC ever, for that matter), including logistics and Covid-19 considerations. Hop into your favorite HOBY swag, grab a snack, and get comfy!

What does “hybrid” mean, exactly?
Hybrid means that the WLC will happen in both virtual and on-site formats. Basically, ambassadors can choose whether they’d prefer to experience the seminar in-person or virtually. On-site participants will join us at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, while virtual participants will join us via HOBY Connect.

This doesn’t mean that the on-site and virtual seminars will be happening separately, or that on-site and virtual participants won’t be able to socialize and interact with one another. You might think of the virtual and on-site seminars as a sort of Venn diagram in which the two circles share a lot of overlap – for the most part, program elements will take place synchronously, and the experiences will be pretty much the same. However, there will be a few things that are unique to each experience. For example, participants who choose the on-site experience will need to make travel plans to get to Dallas. On the other hand, participants who choose the virtual experience will find that some parts of the program – such as the service project, or creative activities (called “masterclasses”) – are optional for them.

Jasmine Johns, who’s serving as this year’s Vice Chair of Outreach and Recruitment, urges people who are considering attending this year’s WLC not to think of either experience as better. “In a way, the hybrid format is nice because it allows people a lot more flexibility to choose the experience that works best for them,” she said. “No matter where in the world you are, the World Leadership Congress is now more accessible than ever. We cannot wait to welcome our 2021 ambassadors, whether virtually or at the beautiful campus of Southern Methodist University.”

The hybrid format is also designed to increase accessibility for people who might not be able to make it to an in-person seminar for any number of reasons. This includes international students, many of whom are still facing travel restrictions due to the pandemic or lengthy visa processes. 

Breaking Down On-Site Participation: COVID-19 Restrictions & Considerations

If you’re like me, even being fully vaccinated might not stop you from feeling a little jumpy when you go out in public these days (did people always used to stand this close to each other in the grocery store checkout line??). HOBY recognizes that even though things are starting to return to normal, the pandemic isn’t completely over. With that in mind, the WLC volunteer team is working diligently to make sure that everyone who comes to SMU stays safe and healthy.

Here are a few of the preventive measures you’ll see at the on-site WLC:

  • Vaccinations will be required for everyone in attendance (volunteers and participants).
  • Attendees may be asked to show proof of a negative Covid test prior to their arrival. 
  • Masks will likely be required for certain program components.
  • Medical staff will be present at all times. 
  • Supervised isolation housing will be provided for anyone who starts to show symptoms or tests positive for Covid-19. (Participants who get sick will need to have their emergency contact pick them up from Dallas within 24 hours.)

Breaking Down Virtual Participation: Not Just Another Zoom Meeting

Before you can say it – we know. You’re tired of Zoom. I’m tired of Zoom. We’re all tired of Zoom. The good news is that in addition to accommodating participants from different time zones, the virtual curriculum has some built-in features that are designed to help minimize Zoom fatigue.

Virtual participants will still hear from keynote speakers and participate in workshops at the same time as on-site participants. However, some elements of the virtual experience – such as the service project and other select activities – will be asynchronous, meaning that participants can complete them on their own time, or not at all. Participants will access this content through HOBY Connect, our secure learning management system. 

So if you’re feeling hesitant about committing to the virtual experience because you’re afraid it just won’t be the same – have  a little faith in the HOBY magic. Nearly all HOBY seminars last year – including the WLC – were virtual. This means that for the Vice Chair team and other volunteers, this isn’t their first foray into the virtual seminar world. “We’ve had a year to improve on our virtual seminar practices,” Jasmine reminded me, “and we’ve learned a lot in that time, including how to create a meaningful virtual experience that still captures the HOBY magic.”

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: What’s Staying the Same?

If you’ve ever heard about HOBY before from a sibling/friend/stranger on the street wearing a brightly colored t-shirt, you know that the core organization units of any HOBY event (including the WLC) are the small groups in which participants spend most of their time. Each small group has their own staff facilitator who acts as a guide for the duration of the week. For some students, the small groups are the highlight of their HOBY experience – it’s where they tend to form the closest bonds, and where a lot of the deepest conversations happen. Fortunately, both on-site and virtual participants will still get to have the small group experience, and each group will still be paired with a single facilitator for the entire week. For the sake of keeping logistical chaos to a minimum this year, small groups will be organized so that virtual participants are grouped with other virtual participants, and on-site participants are grouped together as well. 

In addition, HOBY’s curriculum, which is based on the Social Change Model of leadership, isn’t going anywhere. Both on-site and virtual participants will still have the option to earn college credit for an additional fee. All participants will receive HOBY swag, and although the cheering might look a little bit different from usual, volunteers are still bound and determined to create an environment that is as enthusiastic, friendly, and inclusive as possible. But hey, you don’t need to take my word for it – join us (either on-site or virtually!) and experience all of the O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G things that the WLC has to offer for yourself. 

Numbers, Dates, and Deadlines:

  • On-site Enrollment Deadline for International Students – June 18, 2021
  • On-site Enrollment Deadline for 2020 and 2021 U.S. State Seminar Ambassadors/Alumni – June 30, 2021 or when we meet capacity
  • Virtual Enrollment Deadline for all participants (International and Domestic) – June 30, 2021
  • Payment Deadline – July 2, 2021
  • On-site Participants – Final vaccination (second shot) deadline & transportation details submitted deadline – July 10, 2021
  • On-Site Tuition: $1,795
  • Virtual Tuition: $650

Questions? Email a member of the Outreach & Recruitment Team at wlc2021@hoby.org – we can’t wait to hear from you!

Author Bio: Alison Miller is a Copy Editor on the 2021 WLC volunteer team. She is a 2008 HOBY Texas Capital Area Alumna, and still serves as the Director of Programs for the TXCA seminar. She currently lives in Alaska with her partner and her rescue pitbull. 

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