American University students eager to get involved after more than a year of remote learning
Interest in club involvement is high, but COVID regulations are still impacting membership
Students are making the most of opportunities to engage with organizations on campus this fall with many American University students connecting with clubs both virtually and in-person.
The Center for Student Involvement hosted a hybrid involvement fair on Sept. 2. Unlike last fall, some clubs were able to table on the quad to generate student interest, but the majority of clubs participated virtually.
For AU Outdoors, turnout to this year’s virtual involvement fair was better than last year, but in-person events have created the most interest among new members.
“A lot more people came to the in-person info session,” AU Outdoors President Molly Babitz said. “It’s just been a really exciting time. We’ve had a lot of new members, a really big engagement. I’ve had people email me almost daily trying to get involved.”
Babitz, who is a junior, said the majority of AU Outdoors events are held outside and members can wear masks in groups of more than 25.
Similarly, EagleTHON has had more new member interest generated from tabling in person than from the virtual involvement events.
“You could feel the energy of just being on a table and people are coming up and stopping,” said EagleTHON Executive Director Lillie Hornung.
Hornung, a senior, said this year’s EagleTHON team is already larger than last year, and students are not just interested in attending events, but in planning and committee membership.
Not all clubs found tabling to be the most effective way to connect with the greatest number of students.
“The virtual fair seemed to be a lot more effective, just because there were so many people who were really looking to go there to find new clubs,” said sophomore Katie Winter, public relations officer of the Meditation Club. ”When we had our first meeting, I think the majority of the people said they found us through the virtual involvement fair.”
Renewed club engagement has not been limited to the class of 2025. Current sophomores were restricted entirely to virtual involvement during their first year. Since returning to campus, the class of 2024 has been taking advantage of opportunities to participate in clubs on campus.
“Clearly there’s a lot of sophomores, as well as freshmen, who are still looking to get involved in clubs,” Winter said.
AUCC has provided club leaders with guidelines to plan events that foster community while mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In-person and hybrid events classify as a “complex” program. According to the AUCC website these events have a minimum five-week planning timeline to solidify safety protocol with the Club Council.
Some mitigation efforts for in-person events include mask wearing, individually wrapped food and attendee registration on the Engage platform for contact tracing in the event of outbreak.
Freshman Phoebe Sanders connected with AU College Democrats through the virtual involvement fair.
“I haven’t been able to meet as many people as I would have in a normal year, but it’s still been really fun and a good way to get to know people,” Sanders said.
AUCC Finance Director Daniel Cohen said the council has observed “comparable interest and involvement as previous semesters, even though we have safety guidelines in play and COVID protocols still going.”
“We’ve had a lot of students who’ve come to both CSI and AUCC just introducing themselves, asking how they can get involved, talking about new ideas they have for clubs or which clubs they want to get connected to,” Cohen said.
Even with the option to host in-person events, many clubs are choosing to retain some virtual components. Hornung expressed EagleTHON’s desire to remain accessible for students.
“Our plan is to have all of our in-person events be hybrid in some capacity or another because we understand that there are people who might not feel comfortable coming or maybe they’re immunocompromised,” Hornung said.