Walking around campus on the day of the University of Connecticut Involvement Fair, you could definitely tell which students had already attended. Their arms were full of multicolored fliers and scraps of paper, buttons, pens and stickers.
Hot and crowded, the Involvement Fair started at 2 p.m. and continued for the rest of the afternoon, ending officially at 7 p.m. Up and down Fairfield Way, student representatives of all clubs, societies and associations, armed with poster board and email lists, talked with other students, mostly freshmen, explaining to them what their groups were all about.
Banners were set up around the fair, giving passers-by a general sense of direction. In one section, flags proclaimed “Service,” in another, “Health and Fitness.” These, together with other categorical flags, helped attendees navigate the street jam packed with students and tables, and closer to the Student Union, a couple of cars meant to attract members to automobile-related groups.
“There’s definitely some clubs I want to look for,” first semester finance major Jordan Wang said, the morning before the fair. “I don’t know the names but I know the types of clubs, but I want to be surprised too, like ‘Oh, here’s something I might like.’ ”
After visiting the fair, first semester pre-pharmacy major Samantha Chow and first semester physiology and neurobiology major Jillian Crawford had a similar strategy. Beforehand, Crawford had three clubs of interest, all of which she found, but was open to checking out other organizations as well.
“If you didn’t have an interest before, and then you see something, it might spark something,” Chow said.
That spark is something representatives can capitalize on as well. Seventh semester pathobiology and Spanish major Julianna Jacoboski was at the fair representing Dumbledore’s Army, a club on campus that convenes for Harry Potter-related events. She emphasized freshmen wouldn’t know all the options available for involvement at UConn, making an event like the involvement fair so important. Students can’t sign up for Dumbledore’s Army unless they know about it, which the involvement fair can take care of.
Plus, at a big school like UConn, it can be difficult to find people with similar interests. Chow and Crawford shared that sometimes it’s difficult as a freshman to connect with the people on your floor or in your classes. Fifth semester nursing major Erin Grant, representing the Gospel Choir Club, gave a similar reason for the importance of the fair.
“When you come to a big school like this you may feel lost,” Grant said. “Clubs like Gospel Choir can let you know, ‘you have a home here.’ ”
Besides just helping freshmen find their niche, the involvement fair serves a purpose for all the clubs and organizations as well. Seventh semester speech, language and hearing sciences and human development and family studies double major Niccole Taccariello noted how Hear For You, a group devoted to working with people who have communicative difficulties, tends to fluctuate between having a lot of upperclassmen members and a lot of lowerclassmen. The Involvement Fair is one way to try and add more freshmen and newcomers to the ranks.
However, given all the motion and talking going on, it may be difficult for representatives to accurately explain their organization to browsing students. Just standing there won’t attract many newcomers, unless your club is really flashy or if your table is covered with free stuff. Club representatives also don’t want to come on too strong and resemble recruiters at high school college fairs.
“Just be outgoing,” fifth semester American studies major Raphael Feigenbaum
of Chabad said. Chabad works to promote Jewish community at UConn. “A lot of people are scared to approach. Just be warm. Be friendly.”
By the end of the afternoon, most clubs had a reasonably sized email list and most of the attendees could anticipate receiving a number of club messages in the coming days. The hope remains that the fair served multiple purposes: helping students find new friends, helping organizations gain members, giving club sports teams enough players for a starting squad, continuing traditions, starting new traditions and making the community at UConn an ever-more entangled web.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.