By Irina Rusanova
The Saint Vincent College campus houses over 50 clubs ranging many different topics, activities, and groups. More established clubs such as Anime Club and Swing Dance Club stand alongside newer clubs like Korean Pop Culture Club and Aquarium Club. But despite their differences, all clubs are unified in that they all require students’ initiative to come to life as well as continued effort to stay alive.
For example, Cooking Club, Food & Comedy Club, and Aquarium Club are all actively recruiting members and holding activities.
Antonia DeBastiani, sophomore mathematics and engineering major and President of the Cooking Club, stated that she had wished to join a cooking club since her first semester at SVC.
“I had thought it would be fun to join a cooking club as a freshman since there are kitchens open to student use; however, when I looked for one, I found that it didn’t exist. So, I thought why not make one?” she said.
The club held its first meeting on Oct. 30, 2019 with plentiful student turnout. The meeting involved students in the creation of spooky treats such as ghost pretzels.
DeBastiani said that she hopes to hold at least two meetings this semester and that plans for future activities will depend on the new club members’ wishes.
“I hope that the club will grow from the numbers that it has now. Overall, my main plans involve having fun with the club and helping people to meet others through a mutual love of good food,” she said.
DeBastiani stated that she has not experienced any difficulties with club requirements as of yet.
“If I were to say there were any difficulties at all, they would have been on my end dealing with my own schedule,” she said.
Taylor Hatchet, junior biology major and President of the Food & Comedy Club, said that she developed her club in order to create a place for students to have fun and share enjoyable experiences over a meal.
“I have come to the conclusion that a good meal and laughter have a powerful way of bonding people together,” Hatchet said. “So, if I can contribute a little happiness and peace at Saint Vincent, then I have done a good job.”
Despite encountering some troubles to get events approved, Hatchet stated that she persisted and will continue to recruit members by publicizing the events she has gained approval for while seeking approval for more projects to encourage more frequent club activity.
“Getting some of the events approved was an uphill battle due to the nature of my club. […] The schedule is pretty random, but we have some events coming up [in November] and a service project sometime in December,” she said.
Hatchet said she also hopes to access the kitchen during a meeting to bake as one of the activities for the club in the future.
Alyssa Baker, junior biology major and studio art minor, took her status as Fencing Club President one step further by starting up the Aquarium Club.
The idea to begin a fishkeeping-themed club first came up during post-fencing conversations in the Spring 2019 semester. Students in the Fencing Club would often stay behind after practice to talk about aquariums and fishkeeping, which opened Baker’s eyes to the fact that there are a multitude of students interested in the topic.
Eventually, she said, they figured that if so many people who enjoyed fish could be found in just their group, there must be more interest throughout the rest of campus as well and a club for fish enthusiasts could be quite popular.
“Fish are our only approved pet on campus, after all,” she said. “Because of our origins, I like to joke that the Aquarium Club is the ‘Fencing Club Part 2.’”
Baker said that the club has not had difficulties with club requirements.
“I've had presidential experience since my freshman year, so I know the processes that need to be gone through. We try to be on top of things,” Baker explained.
Because of her prior experience, Baker said she also knows how to spread the word about Aquarium Club, which has allowed the club to grow in numbers.
“New club members are recruited during Club Fair, Homecoming, Spring Family Weekend, or any other such events where we are active in the college community,” Baker stated. “Information about our club is also spread through word of mouth and we have gotten some members who joined because a friend mentioned or recommended it.”
The club meetings take place every other Monday and usually run around an hour depending on how engaged club members are in the day’s conversation and how much time they are able to spend away from schoolwork.
Baker stated that from time to time, the club goes on trips to places such as Elmer’s Aquarium and Pet Center or events held by the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society.
As for club goals, Baker stated the Aquarium Club’s commitment to bring nature and further educational material, especially about aquatics and fish behavior, to the Dupre Science Pavilion in the form of a tank.
Right now, Baker said, their plans are to continue getting more people involved in successful fishkeeping, as well as to incorporate an engaging aquascape – an artistic aquatic placement of plants and décor – into the 120-gallon student-maintained aquarium, which is currently standing empty by the planetarium in Dupre.
Beside this is a smaller, empty tank designated for monetary donations. In addition, Aquarium Club members are selling one dollar stickers to support the club. There is also a tank set-up and sand sale for students and faculty looking to purchase a fish tank that has already been catered with required materials such as a filter and sand.
Campus clubs also share the need to follow several requirements.
Anna Borges, Graduate Coordinator of Student Activities, explained that in order for clubs to remain active on campus, they must complete two club specific events, one campus wide event, and one service project every semester. Clubs also are required to participate in Club Fair and Homecoming during the fall and Spring Family Weekend during the spring.
Borges stated that every semester, clubs are expected to detail the events they held in the previous semester, changes to their budgets, and minutes of meetings in a binder, which is now online.
Student presidents attend a Council of Presidents, also known as “COP,” meeting once a month to go over club information pertinent to them. Borges also said that more information is available to students on the Student Portal under “Clubs and Organizations.”
“I believe that the requirements of the clubs at Saint Vincent College are manageable and allow for the students to maximize the exposure their clubs get while allowing for the clubs to be successful in fulfilling their goals,” Borges stated. “Many other institutions require a lot more of their student organizations so I truly do believe that what we ask of them is doable.”
Borges said that there are currently no plans to change club requirements but student activity coordinators are always willing to hear feedback from club officers and members.
She also stated that clubs should meet at least once a month, but some clubs meet much more regularly.
“For example, the majority of the sport related clubs meet several times a week for practices, games, etc.,” Borges stated. “Other clubs do not need to meet as frequently in order for their club to do well.”
She also said that clubs should strive to host more events and hold more meetings, making sure to advertise and market well in order to engage a broader range of students, especially those students who do not often get involved in activities on campus.
“I do think that having more events would help boost participation of students,” Borges said. “Based on conversations with students, I know that they want to be involved and participate but can find it hard to do so if [their] club doesn’t host events or meetings frequently.”
Regarding club member counts in the current semester, Borges stated that she does not find that freshman enrollment deficiencies have impacted club standings.
“I believe that, despite there being fewer first-year students, this year’s class is a group of students who are very engaged in a variety of activities. Many of the freshman are involved in various clubs in addition to athletics, campus ministry, etc.,” she said.
Borges stated that she would recommend all clubs to utilize club advertising techniques outside of participating in the club fair, as many students do not get the chance to attend the fair.
According to Borges, continuous recruitment is a highly overlooked technique that could potentially help clubs up their standings, as is use of social media, the Student Portal, and word-of-mouth marketing.
Borges explained that clubs can be disbanded for multiple reasons but as long as a club holds the interest of a sufficient number of students, fulfills club duties diligently, and passes on leadership properly, it will be successful.
“In my time as the Graduate Coordinator of Student Activities, I have only seen a few clubs no longer be active,” Borges said. “We strive to have clubs which fit the student need and want on campus, and that changes as the students on campus change through the years.”