Kristen D'Souza / Sun Layout Staff

Cornell's newest clubs adjust to virtual meetings and events.

February 25, 2021

New Clubs Strive to Foster Community Despite Virtual Format

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From poker and magic to global market analysis, nature art and agri-food venture capitalism, new clubs are filling a wide range of niches and engaging students in a myriad of interests during a semester where personal interaction is limited.

Despite the circumstances, many students have risen to the challenge and gone through the process of creating new clubs. 

According to the Campus Activities Office, COVID-19 hasn’t impacted the number of new organizations this year. Forty-two new organizations have started the registration process so far this semester, and about half have completed the process.

Sarah Belhasan ’23, president of Global Marketing Analysts Cornell, said the virtual format has posed recruitment challenges for many campus organizations — especially for those that are new. 

“We did realize that it may be a little bit more difficult to gain traction and just get the club out there without having a physical [ClubFest] where you can engage with people,” Belhasan said. 

In addition to participating in virtual ClubFest earlier this month, Belhasan and the other e-board members have created a website, asked professors to share information about the club, advertised in group chats and utilized CampusGroups to spread the word. 

David Frank ’24, president of the Cornell Magic Society, also said there are drawbacks to online recruitment. 

However, Frank said that social media platforms like Instagram, the Cornell Reddit page and Facebook groups have all helped generate interest.

And though some activities simply aren’t possible because of COVID-19 — like putting on informal magic shows around campus — the virtual format makes it simpler for high-profile guest speakers to attend meetings.

“There are definitely going to be some hurdles to jump over with regards to COVID, but I have seen it work in the past with Zoom magic clubs that I’m a part of elsewhere,” Frank said. “So I don’t think that’s going to be too much of an issue.”

Poker Association of Cornell president and co-founder Ryan Leung ’23 expressed excitement about the events his club has planned for the semester, like Zoom poker workshops and virtual games. Going forward, he mentioned the possibility of hosting charity tournaments or events with other universities. 

Leung hopes that people attending the events see them as a way to meet new people and be social, something that has been particularly challenging with social distancing regulations. 

“Ultimately, poker is a very social game,” Leung said. “So if there’s one thing that I hope for members of our club to get, it’s that they’ll find a new group of friends and have good experiences and make good memories through our club.” 

Leung also wants the club to be accessible to everyone and inclusive of students from all backgrounds — especially because poker is typically dominated by white male players, particularly on the professional level.

Spizella co-editor Jalen Winstanley ’22 also emphasized community-building in his organization.

“[Spizella is] an interesting amalgamation of different types of Cornellians and their different types of art,” Winstanley said. “It’s important to note the collaborative nature of it, and the non-hierarchical nature of it as well.”

He said Spizella, an online publication featuring nature art by Cornellians, has fostered a sense of connection through the artistic expression of peoples’ relationships with the natural world. 

Winstanley said that in the project’s early stages, publishing online allows editors to aggregate content together easily. However, the team hopes to switch to print issues sometime in the future.

“Hopefully the trajectory of this project will match the trajectory of school returning in person, and returning to more physical learning,” Winstanley said. “As we get out of COVID we’ll start printing, and it’ll assume a different form.” 

One club in particular — Grub Ventures — is working to connect Cornell students, not only with each other, but also with the greater Ithaca Community. 

Grub Ventures CEO Deshelley Teo ’22 said the club aims to target food insecurity in Ithaca’s homeless population. 

“I think a big part of it is knowing that as Cornell students we have a responsibility to be more connected to the Ithaca community make a positive contribution,” Teo said. 

Teo said taking the risk to create the club has been more than worthwhile, and the organization is excited that so many students are interested in exploring the intersection of food, business and social impact.

“I think just seeing the amount of people that were coffee chatting [with] us and that were interested,” Teo said, “makes all of us really glad that we put in the effort to create the club.”