Clubs, SLI talk student involvement fair

With the start of a new semester comes new classes — and new extracurriculars. There are few opportunities more ideal or more concentrated than the annual Involvement Fair.

This year, the fair took place on Thursday, September 1, from 5-7 p.m. on the Gator Quad. Allegheny’s more-than-100 student organizations and clubs set up tables advertising what they had to offer, collecting names and email addresses from interested students who stopped by. Students could walk away with not only new knowledge on each club’s purpose, but also a plethora of stickers, flags and pins.   

Allegheny has several “big” happenings during each academic year. The college is not without its major events, most notably Springfest, that bring big crowds. But according to Gloria Burgess, Student Life Coordinator for Student Programming, the Involvement Fair is a uniquely major event — there are very few students who sit this one out. 

“It’s honestly one of the only times that we’re able to have a majority of the students in one area,” Burgess said.

The responsibility of coordinating the involvement fair rests with the Student Leadership and Involvement department. Preparation for the event includes sending registration forms to all of the clubs that have re-registered for the fall semester, ensuring that refreshments are available when students are exploring Allegheny’s extracurriculars, and setting up the tables so that clubs can hang their banners. 

Said banners are not an insignificant part of Allegheny Outing Club’s preparation process.

“We have to make a poster … which has the intention of drawing people in,” said Molly Todd, ’23, president of the Outing Club. “Last year we had a little gator and a … hiking boot.”

Todd added that reaching out to other Outing Club leaders to get them to table at the fair, and setting out gear that will entice students to stop by, are other aspects of the process. 

Prior to the involvement fair the Student Experimental Theatre’s executive board convenes to discuss the events on this semester’s docket.

“We figure out if we want any promotional materials on the table, and we figure out who we want to be there to represent the club,” said SET Vice President Sarah Brammell, ’23 added.

Leading up to the fair, SET also organized its annual all-day theatre fest on Saturday, August 27. Both teams and single participants were invited to register and challenged to create a short play and evening performance in one day. 

If students did not test their theatre chops at this fest during their first year at Allegheny, SET encourages them to do it in coming years. It acts as a preview of sorts to what SET is as a club.

“We want people to … meet and have a time to get to know other people who are into theatre, especially since it’s the first weekend of college — it can be daunting,” Brammell explained. “So we want to make sure that people are aware that they have these events to get to know people.”

Changes with Allegheny Student Government club budgeting means that the Outing Club may have to alter some things internally this year, while still being able to promote activities that get students out into nature.

“We might have to broadcast the club a little bit differently,” Todd said. “Sometimes (outings) may come at a little bit more of a cost than (they) did previously. However, it’s still completely manageable … and it should be just as accessible as it used to be.” 

The past few years, the Outing Club has been limited in terms of its offerings due to the coronavirus pandemic. Breakouts of positive cases meant activity restrictions. But Todd hopes that this year, with regulations loosening, the club will be less inhibited in its possibilities and thus be able to advertise new outdoor opportunities. 

SET has also experienced setbacks due to the pandemic, Brammell said. Being an experimental theatre group, it has been difficult amid COVID-19 to put on events other than short plays. With this academic year’s return to a new normal of sorts, Brammell said that “we’re trying to have more exciting things to market to get people involved in.”

This spring marks the second year that SLI is organizing a winter Involvement Fair, named so because Meadville has been known to receive snow in the early spring months. Students and faculty had reached out initially because of the popularity of the fall Involvement Fair, Burgess explained, hoping to replicate the large crowd that this event brings. The success of this later fair has led the department to want to try it again. 

“It went a lot better than we had imagined it going, for a spring involvement fair, so we’re hoping to incorporate that into the future (fairs),” Burgess said. “I know the students enjoy being involved and having the opportunities to connect.”

Another reason behind hosting the Involvement Fair in the spring semester was to reflect students’ changing interests. What students had signed up for in the fall might not appeal to them anymore, so they may want to explore other clubs and organizations.

“People grow, and their ideas change, and what they want to be involved in (changes),” Burgess said. 

One thing different at this Involvement Fair that has not been seen at fairs past, with the exception of the spring edition, is the inclusion of departments as well as extracurriculars. Burgess explained that sometimes a student does not want to get involved in a club, so having academic departments present provides extra opportunities.

Ensuring a successful Involvement Fair starts with the students, Burgess explained, and the promotion that they do for their clubs. Otherwise students would find empty tables set up on the Gator Quad.

Club leaders are cognizant of their role in the fair’s ability to run smoothly. Due to the enthusiasm they have for the event and their respective organizations, though, their efforts oftentimes come naturally.

Todd enjoys bringing new students into the Outing Club and getting them to register.

“The Involvement Fair is one of my favorite things to do as a club,” Todd said. “You get to interact with so many new people.”

Brammell echoed a similar sentiment about the fair, an event that they said is “very special and exciting.”

“It’s a time where I get to meet new students who I will likely be working with in the future with SET if they’re interested in theatre in any aspect,” Brammell said. “I’ve connected with some really great people that have done work with us at the involvement fair.” 

Although, as indicated by its name, the involvement fair is partially designed for students to join clubs, Burgess said that the social aspect — students mingling, getting passionate about shared interests — is equally important.

“Especially for first year students, when they come to an event like that, it can be overwhelming because there are so many people, and so for the students who are not involved and sitting at a table and registering people, we hope that they’re able to just meet a new face,” Burgess said.

Both Brammell and Todd are aware of and appreciate the social side of the involvement fair. 

“It’s just always a good opportunity to see new faces and get acclimated to who might be involved in our productions in the future,” Brammell said.

“A lot of people will come looking for us,” Todd said. “It’s a lot of fun to just talk with likeminded people about a thing that I really enjoy and getting people to come and join us on our trips.”