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SAO holds annual student activities night

Nicole Toczauer | Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Students swarmed the Joyce Center Fieldhouse to sign up for campus clubs and organizations during Activities Night 2011 Tuesday.

The Student Activities Office (SAO) sponsored the annual event, allowing students to explore the University’s 298 undergraduate groups.

SAO Assistant Director Brian Fremeau said the office estimated an attendance of around 4,000 students.

“It could have been higher even. If you count the participants at the tables, that could add another 500,” he said. “It’s one of the largest events of the calendar year for student events.”

First-year students represented the majority of attendees investigating the academic, athletic, cultural, media and service associations, Fremeau said.

Upperclassmen attended the event as well, though there was a certain enthusiasm exhibited by the freshmen, he said.

“I think the excitement for the first year is evident at Activities Night. Many students are trying to find ways to get involved,” he said. “That enthusiasm is key to the night.”

Freshman Devin Duffy said he came to Activities Night with an open mind when considering which groups to join.

“I signed up for Chess Club, Mock Trial Club and Texas Club even though I’m not really from Texas,” he said. “I’m going to look at a bunch more clubs — I’m just getting started here.”

Belles from Saint Mary’s College also made their way over to look into organizations at Notre Dame.

“Especially as a freshman, it’s really to get out there and do stuff,” freshman Annemarie Loessberg said. “I’m looking at Anthropology club, Arabic club and I guess whatever else I see out there.”

Loessberg said she didn’t believe attending meetings on Notre Dame’s campus would be too difficult.

“They have the bus all day, so it should be pretty easy,” she said. “I’ll definitely make it work for something they don’t have at SMC.”

To prepare for students such as Duffy and Loessberg interested in joining these organizations, Fremeau said SAO held a “Maximizing Activities Night” event for participating clubs Aug. 24.

“Activities Night is an annual event, so in a sense it is prepared for throughout the year. This year we held a meeting to discuss how to take advantage of following up with interested students and retaining them,” he said. “Groups are more conscious of the need to engage students in the club now.”

Clubs who attended the discussion learned to effectively organize a table and showcase the principles of their group, according to Fremeau. Visual representation was a key topic, as was gauging the true interest students had in the group, rather than simply collecting names. He said the meeting stressed active involvement and moving organizations forward with student-driven momentum.

“We didn’t have 100 percent participation, but it definitely was a popular event. It was open to all and non-mandatory,” Fremeau said. “Many of the new groups took advantage of that more than others.”

One group representative who attended the meeting was Alex Coccia, co-president of the Progressive Student Alliance. Coccia said the meeting was especially helpful when different club members spoke about the experiences they had at previous Activities Nights.

“To help recruit members we have candy at the table. One thing we will do in terms of maintaining a group of dedicated people is to have one-on-one interactions to gauge how much they want to contribute to the club,” he said. “There was also one suggestion of sending out Christmas cards that I liked.”

Other clubs also considered how they would maintain members once they signed up for the club. Erin Hattler, co-president of ND-8, said her club created committees for their members to join. She said she hopes this will help ND-8 progress even further as a group.

“We’re giving everyone roles. Having everyone involved will help us in the fight against women trafficking,” Hattler said. “If people work towards it together, we might even be having a one-credit course next semester.”

While the excitement of joining clubs and organizations reached a high during Activities Night, Fremeau said he suggests students continue with enthusiasm past the evening.

“The room can be overwhelming with all that is going on, but this isn’t the one shot to get involved or sign up for a group,” he said. “You can connect to those groups through our office or directly by contacting them.”

Every recognized club and organization on campus has information available on the SAO website at sao.nd.edu. Fremeau said he encourages any students interested in joining an activity to visit and look through the various descriptions.