Clubs at California Baptist University play a key role in the student culture of the community on campus. Ever since the beginning of virtual learning, campus clubs have had to follow suit and meet virtually, not in person. This has presented a unique experience for all clubs as they do their part in keeping students safe.
Taylor Altizer, assistant director of Campus Activities, explained that clubs are staying safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At this point, clubs are still operating virtually, so they are remaining COVID safe by hosting virtual events,” Altizer said.
Campus clubs have become creative in how they approach a virtual format. Mary Shanks, senior liberal studies major and president of the Disney Club, elaborated on how the club has adapted to a COVID-safe arrangement.
“We went from weekly movie nights to meeting once a month,” Shanks said. “This spring we are incorporating more interactive virtual events and trying to add some movie nights in to bring together our fellow CBU Disney fanatics.”
Shania Martin, senior sociology major and president of United Club, said that they have had their own experience with creating a pandemic-conscious space in United club.
“United has adapted to the pandemic by putting all our meetings online,” said Martin. “We have had scavenger hunts, movie nights, and are planning a collaboration with the black student union later this month – all have been over Zoom.”
According to Altizer, resilience is key when it comes to running a club on campus. Club presidents have done an outstanding job at staying flexible during a turbulent time for the CBU community.
“The club presidents at CBU are some of the more creative and resilient leaders that I have seen in my professional career,” Altizer said. “It is easy to be discouraged when you can’t meet in person and are having to virtually engage with people who might already be experiencing virtual fatigue. The club presidents have risen to the occasion and have put on creative and engaging events.”
Hosting club meetings and events is a new challenge that has never been dealt with before by CBU club presidents. Shanks explained what challenges the Disney club is facing during the pandemic.
“It is really important that our meetings be a time of relaxation and friendship between Disney fans,” Shanks said. “With CBU being mostly virtual we have to work hard to find ways to make our meetings and events not ‘just another Zoom,’ instead we still want members to enjoy their time with our Disney Club community.”
Martin stressed that a larger challenge for clubs is to also find the motivation to engage with extracurricular activities.
“I think the biggest challenge is keeping people excited and engaged,” Martin said. “If you think about it, our whole lives have moved to be online. The boring things are online and so are the fun things, which makes it hard to find the motivation to stay on a screen any longer than we have to.”
Club turnout was one of the concerns shared by club leaders. Altizer explained how club turnout has stayed steady, with some differences from when clubs were meeting in-person.
“What has been a surprising find from this season of virtual programming is that clubs are reaching a wider audience because students who are further from campus can participate in ways they were not able to before,” Altizer said. “On the flip side, there are clubs whose activities require in-person participation, so those clubs have been experiencing less participation. I would say that club turnout has been relatively similar to what it was last year when you take into account the increases for some and the decreases for others.”
Shanks said that students would enjoy joining CBU’s Disney Club because there is joy to be had after a difficult year.
“I believe that Disney Club is the happiest club on campus,” Shanks said. “It is a great place to find community with students who have a similar love for Disney. The past year has been rough for many and our goal as a club is to give CBU students a place to find joy.”
Martin said that CBU’s United club exists to be a safe space for students amid facing a heavy global climate.
“Students should join United because we are a nice, welcoming, safe space for everyone to be themselves,” Martin said. “We welcome and invite people of all grades and backgrounds to join us in having a good time because the climate in American society is really rough right now, and we want to provide solace for everyone really feeling the weight of that.”
Throughout the course of virtual learning, Community Life has been supportive of all CBU clubs and welcomes those who feel disconnected.
“Through this time, community life has been supporting club presidents by training them as well as we can, being available to troubleshoot any club struggles, and to elevate their social platform by sharing posts through our main Community Life Instagram,” Altizer said. “Clubs are student-run and staff-supported, so if you are feeling disconnected and do not know where to go, clubs are a great way to get involved. The club presidents are your peers and they get it. They know how you are feeling because they are going through it too, which makes them highly motivated to foster community. You can sign up for a club on InsideCBU, but most of our club information is going to be found through personal club Instagram pages.”