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Dickinson College's Virtual Activities Fair Re-Imagines How New Students Connect in the COVID-19 Era

Students connect via Zoom with fellow students with similar interests. Photo by Claudia Bonaccorsi ’22.

Photo by Claudia Bonaccorsi ’22.

Fall event goes virtual, bringing events and activities online

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Dickinson students discovered a new way to make and deepen friendships outside of class—even while learning remotely. They participated in last week's Virtual Activities Fair, a new twist on a time-honored tradition that helps first-year and transfer students jump right into student-led clubs and organizations.

Typically, the fair is an in-person event, held at the start of every semester. Rather than simply read about Dickinson's student-led clubs and organizations online, students attend demonstrations, ask questions and get to know the students running and taking part in clubs they find interesting. They can then sign up on the spot.

This fall, more than 375 Dickinsonians Zoomed into an online fair, highlighting student clubs and organizations focusing on social justice, service, cultures and languages, leadership, the arts and media, religion, professions, academics and club sports. There are also specialized clubs and organizations for fans of gaming, manga, horsemanship, Quidditch and more.

“This year’s first-years were very interested in clubs and organizations, and they were enthusiastic about building and cultivating relationships at Dickinson,” said Jessee Vasold, assistant director of student leadership & campus engagement. "I have heard from a number of first-years that they loved it and can’t wait until we can do it again in person and on campus."

That’s also true for students who run campus clubs and organizations. Throughout the pandemic, they've been working hard to build on and expand club friendships through virtual events and meetings. The virtual fair provides a prime opportunity to get the word out.

So far so good, said Maisara Khan ’21 (mathematics, economics), who, along with cofounder Sierra Nguyen ’21 (political science, quantitative economics), welcomed more than 50 members into their brand-new Dickinson Consulting Club. 

“Many first-years and sophomores joined the Zoom call to inquire about the goals of the club and how it will operate, and juniors and seniors filled out the surveys we sent out to them to express their interests in further detail," Khan said. "It went really well."   

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Published September 3, 2020