Student organizations are an integral part of the college experience; however, with campuses closing across the country and students returning home for the semester, it can be difficult to find ways to be involved and connect with the campus community at large. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has created, student orgs at JMU are finding ways to make their presence know, recruit students, and provide fun and fulfilling experiences to all their members, new and old.
Many organizations secured slots at the first ever Virtual Student Org Night as a means of meeting and recruiting new members. Much like previous in-person versions of this event, student groups were divided into categories, allowing students to easily navigate through the 345 organizations and find the ones that best suit them. Upon finding a group that piques their interest, students could go to that groups “booth” and enter into a chatroom where they can meet with officers, and in some case, speak one-on-one with an exec member.
“These sessions are also meant to kind of give students, especially first years and transfers who are new to campus, the opportunity to connect with the orgs,” said Darius Perkins, the Coordinator for Student Organization Management.
Though the online format may seem limiting, there were a number of benefits for JMU students. It gave first-year students ample opportunity to maximize the number of booths they could visit and take note of all the different organizations JMU has to offer. The lack of large crowds created a more relaxed atmosphere, cutting down of the intimidation factor that can come with meeting new people, and allowing students to have more personal conversations with the officers and club members alike.
Outside of Student Org Night, JMU’s student organizations and their exec boards are hard at work trying to find ways to keep their members engaged and safe. Megan McBride, the president of JMU’s sketch comedy club Maddy Night Live (MNL), and her fellow officers came up with a number of ways to ensure their club could function as close to normal as possible. New members auditioned by submitting a form and two videos showcasing their talents. As the group gets ready for callbacks, Megan is also looking forward to what the fall will bring.
“With a combination of video sketches, live streamed zoom shows, and shorter Tik Tok style videos, we hope to have a semester filled with comedy,” she said regarding their plans for the semester.
While this kind of format works well for some organizations, it’s difficult for the many sports clubs on campus to function in the midst of the pandemic. These clubs relay primarily on meeting in-person, participating in their chosen sport, and often times, traveling to intercollegiate tournaments. But Parker Shifflett, the president of the JMU Fencing Club, has a few ideas on how to help his club get through the challenges of the fall semester. The club is doing its best to stick to their original message of teaching students fencing. They recently released a training and conditioning work out set for new and returning members to follow at home and get them geared up for possibly returning in the spring. The big issue they are is facing now is finding ways to keep members interested without actually fencing. Parker and the other officers are working to find online methods that will keep people coming back.
“As a club, we’re trying to create a good media presence,” he said about his current plan.
The group has revamped their social media accounts and created new ones in order to connect with their members and the rest of the student body. On top of this, they are looking into ways to use video conferencing programs like Zoom for both social and training purposes. Nothing is off the table for this sports club as they work hard to adapt to the new normal.
Despite all the difficulties that the campus community is currently facing, the student body has proven to be resilient. Student orgs are continuing to flourish and offer students opportunities for fun times and lasting friendships. For more information about what organizations are active at JMU and how to be involved, check out the Student Activities and Involvement site by clicking here! To stay up to date on upcoming events, be sure to follow SAI on Instagram: @jmustudentactivities.