MURRAY, Ky. — On August 21, the Murray State University College of Education and Human Services and the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology collaborated to hold an Eclipse Watch Party at the Murray campus. This event was open to the entire University community, including students, faculty, staff and administrators. Several hundred participants gathered on the lawn area south of Alexander Hall and were supplied with complimentary viewing glasses, MoonPies®, SunChips® and beverages.
With the nationwide excitement leading up to the solar eclipse, Dr. David Whaley, dean of the College of Education and Human Services (COEHS), wanted to bring a piece of that festivity to the college community.
Whaley explained, “It seemed like the type of event we would want to support, both for the educational outcomes and for the opportunity to bring faculty, staff and students together.”
From there, the concept grew into a larger celebration, expanding its target audience.
“As soon as we started to plan for the event,” Whaley continued, “we realized we would open up attendance beyond the college itself, encouraging all University members to participate if they wished.”
An idea was then sparked to collaborate with the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology (JCSET).
“It seemed logical to pair with a college that has experts in the field of astronomy,” Whaley stated. “We knew that their expertise would benefit participants and serve to strengthen the outcome of the event.”
Dr. Stephen Cobb, dean of JCSET, responded by saying, “I thought the COEHS had a good idea in offering a fun, eclipse-themed event for the students, faculty and staff at Murray State. We were pleased to be asked to be a partner.”
Many individuals like Jessica Loyd, a senior nursing student from Herrin, Illinois, had other commitments which prevented them from traveling for the eclipse and were appreciative to have this opportunity to celebrate with friends.
“I needed to be on campus for work before the eclipse,” explained Loyd, “and when I found out about the viewing party it made sense for me to stay in Murray. I thought it was a really great idea. I know a lot of students were wanting to watch the eclipse, so having the viewing party was a fun way to bring students and faculty together.”
“Our goal was that the campus community would take advantage of this opportunity to observe a unique phenomenon of nature,” shared Cobb. “The solar system is in constant motion, and it’s fun when these special alignments occur and present themselves to us in such a dramatic way. It’s also amazing how advanced science has become so that we are able to predict these occurrences with such accuracy many years in advance.”
Reflecting on the day’s activities, Whaley concluded, “We feel that we exceeded our goal with an estimation of 700 participants who were genuinely engaged in all aspects of the experience — the scientific side, the social factor and the incredible rarity of it all. Those in attendance were courteous, respectful and seemed happy to be present.”
One thing is certain: the 2017 solar eclipse is a spectacle that won’t soon be forgotten.
“It was nice to be able to take a break from the business of school being back in session and enjoy the phenomenon,” continued Loyd. “I was able to see a lot of friends that I do not normally run into on campus and will always remember how so many students and faculty came together to watch this once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Photos from the Eclipse Watch Party can be found on the COEHS Facebook page at facebook.com/MurrayStateCOEHS.