As social distancing has forced many of us indoors indefinitely, some students have begun working to bring us a piece of UR on our laptop screens through Minecraft. Given the chance to discuss their project, the team has provided us with a written statement answering CT’s questions.
It all started with an idea from friends and co-founders juniors Alexander Pavlicin and Kyhl Weber, to create a virtual space for the UR community to gather while separated from campus. The juniors started off by building the Eastman Quad and Rush Rhees Library. Not long after, they learned that other students were also working on their own UR-oriented Minecraft projects. Junior Sean Lee’s project was dedicated to the interior of the Rush Rhees Library, whereas junior Serena Flint focused on the Wilson Quad.
“After seeing the incredible work of our fellow students online,” the team’s statement read, “we decided to combine forces to create a new virtual campus experience.”
After banding together, the group branded themselves the Virtual UR Team. As of right now, the core team comprises Pavlicin as Project Manager and Weber, Lee, and Flint as World Developers. Lee is also in charge of social media communications. Regarding the project mechanics, the world developers have continued to focus on the sections of campus they started with. In addition to online blueprints, the team has been assisted by University Archivist Melissa Mead, helping them obtain an architectural drawing of the Rush Rhees Library facade.
Despite being at different stages in the transition to online classes — with Lee and Flint living on campus, Weber in Pennsylvania, and Pavlicin in Minnesota — they all have chosen to allow this period to guide their creative muses.
“Our work provides hope and inspiration during a time when the world is looking for it, which motivates us every day,” the team’s statement read. “Building our beloved campus is therapeutic in many ways as we navigate the global crisis occurring around us.”
Although the team members have been playing Minecraft for years, they unanimously agreed that this independent initiative is the largest group undertaking they’ve pursued. According to the team, the community support they’ve received has been eagerly welcomed as it’s taken flight just over a week ago.
So far, the goal is to make a Minecraft server with commencement-themed locations — like the Eastman Quad and Eastman Theatre — for their planned virtual commencent. The team is even trying to include other UR events like the Candlelight Ceremony and Meliora Weekend.
“It’s also important to note,” the team’s statement read, “that our events are not designed to be a replacement for the traditional on-campus celebrations that the University is already planning. Our goal is to build community and give the gift of a virtual campus to the senior class.”
Aside from this, they plan to set up a separate world for the community to edit and add additional buildings. “There will be several opportunities to participate in our events even if you do not own Minecraft as a platform,” the team’s statement read. “We are actively discussing partnerships with virtual reality teams to bring a free and accessible opportunity to the project.”
Before long, the development of Virtual UR will make campus accessible for anyone to virtually hang out in the library with their friends or attend a UR event without having to check-in with CampusGroups.
Correction (3/30/2020): A previous version of this story misspelled junior Alexander Pavlicin’s last name as “Pavlivin.” It has been updated to fix the inaccuracy.