On Wednesday, Sept. 16 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Student Life held their annual Clubs and Orgs Involvement Fair. However, unlike past years the Involvement Fair was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twenty-six clubs were represented at the fair and over 40 students RSVP’d to the virtual event.
In charge of planning the fair is Center for Student Involvement manager, Anne Turney. Prior to the fair, Turney and the Student Life team began planning different ways that the fair would operate under the college’s new restrictions. Due to the absence of many students from campus, the team looked for an online option. Over the summer, the parent company for Get Involved developed a system for hosting the virtual fair.
“I would say [we’ve done] about the same amount of planning as if it was in person,” Turney said. “The planning had a couple different facets, we [had to] train clubs on how to use [the website] and then also the club recruitment part. [Getting] clubs to actually want to participate in the fair was a big part of the planning. We always have a lot of paper information and different swag items that we give to students. So [figuring out] how could we still have that element of the fair being virtual was a big part of the planning.”
Turney along with her team decided that the best way to still give out all of the information as well as the goodie bags that students would normally receive was to send them out via mail. With the behind-the-scenes aspect planned, the next step was trying to get participants to come to the event.
“With an in-person event, all you have to do is say ‘hey show up to COM Plaza’ and then there are troves of people are going to walk past it anyways, so it’s kind of that built in audience,” Turney said. “[This year] it was relying a lot on students to share with other students, clubs to share with other students and staff to share with other students. Using our social media has been another good asset for us and in getting students to at least RSVP and then hopefully attend.”
Students who RSVP’d before the event received a swag bag from Student Life. The bag consisted of a reusable tote bag, a folder with all the flyers and informational sheets from the clubs that participated, a contact-less door opener, stickers, a color-changing cup and more.
As students logged in to the Get Involved website, they were greeted with a list of all the clubs that were a part of the fair. Links were provided for each club, connecting students to their website and a Zoom link. The Zoom calls were organized so that students could ask questions about individual clubs and get more information on what they do.
President of the Frisbee Club, Joshua Sanders hopes that the Involvement Fair will bring in new members for the Fall semester.
“The past year had a minimum of three to four people per meeting and then a maximum of about eight to ten people,” Sanders said. “Our goal is to be able to make it to at least 16 people in our club that come on a regular basis.”
Many clubs have been using social media to get in contact with members and organize meetings.
“We plan to increase membership through our social media,” Sanders said. “We have one social media that we platform that we currently use and that is our JCCC Ultimate Frisbee in Instagram. [We plan to] broadcast that Instagram page to our student body and have people follow us there. That way we can increase our membership by allowing opportunities for them to sign up and join us even though they can’t see us in on campus.”
Other clubs such as the Black Student Union have similar goals such as expanding membership and making more students aware of what the BSU does. However, because campus has a restriction on how many people can be in one area at once, some clubs are struggling to make meetings work.
BSU advisor Catherine Schrag has the goal of creating a community for students of color to reach out to each other and curate conversations about social issues in the United States.
“We want to not only be a place that students can come and have a fun social experience, but also learn about you know their culture or learn about their history,” Schrag said. “Students will take on a topic and then they’ll come back, and they’ll do a presentation for the other students in the club. We also try to network and connect for like internships and things like that. We just try and be somewhere where we can foster academic and social Achievement [as well as] Community Involvement.”
Schrag remains optimistic that BSU will continue to expand and grow as a club even though they’re unable to host meetings in person.
“It’s easy to come to meetings, all you have to do is just turn on Zoom,” Schrag said. “[There are students who] work but can jump out at their lunch break and still come for meeting you know it doesn’t really matter where you are. That is actually something that I think I hope we incorporate even when we go back on campus. That those people who maybe can’t physically come to campus that day because they don’t have classes can join us from Zoom. So, I think this is actually just teaching us how to be more connected in in a different kind of way.”
More and more clubs are now turning to Zoom or other virtual meeting services to continue their involvement on campus. As far as Student Life goes, Turney hopes that the Involvement Fair will help clubs find new members and help students connect with clubs that align with their passions or interests.
“I wanted people to attend [the Involvement Fair], so that students know about the clubs, but also I really want the clubs to have an opportunity to interact with students. They’ve had to do so much to shift all of what they’ve done [to a virtual setting] so I just really want this to be successful.”
The Center for Student Involvement plans many events for students throughout the semester and has several ideas for events in the upcoming months. To stay informed on all things Student Life, be sure to check out their website.
By Alieu Jagne