This past ClubFest marked the first in-person club fair held at Cornell in more than a year — and for some student club leaders, the past month has brought their very first in-person interactions with their own organizations.
For members of the Class of 2024, being involved in student groups was limited to virtual meetings over Zoom last year, but this did not prevent current sophomores from rising to leadership in their organizations.
Now, in addition to the joys of in-person events, these students face the unique challenge of leading organizations they have yet to even attend an in-person meeting for.
Luke Ellis ’24 emphasized how the atmosphere of his club has shifted from his experience last semester. Ellis, president of the jazz and modern music club Jazz+, said that since the club became relatively inactive during the height of the pandemic, seeing the club create a creative outlet for students feels rewarding.
But even as excitement abounds over the new life brought to student events, the transition out of unending Zoom rooms has brought its own hurdles as these new leaders navigate leading in-person activities for the first time.
“The hardest part about transitioning to be the president of Jazz+ was just learning all the ropes starting from nearly no knowledge at all,” Ellis said. “The pandemic left some of the ropes knotted or frayed, so it was quite the daunting task to approach something that hasn’t really been touched in over a year.”
Ellis also described how meeting the other members of the e-board felt strange at first because of the lack of interaction during the last year.
“I only had one Zoom meeting with the e-board during the summer. It was a bit uncomfortable, personally, during our first Zoom meeting since I had never met some of the team I was leading, and many were older than I was, too,” Ellis said.
Despite the challenges of navigating his new college leadership position, Ellis has been able to ease into his new role with the support of his other e-board members.
For some, the difficulties of adjusting to the new role has more to do with the logistics of holding meetings in person for the first time in more than a year.
LindaRose Piccolo ’24 joined Salsa Pa’lante, a salsa dance team, during virtual ClubFest last year. With COVID, all rehearsals were held over Zoom, but she said she still appreciated the opportunity to interact live with her peers. As the current vice president and choreographer, she has witnessed the new life and energy to the club that was not seen in the past year.
“It was an easy transition, given that everyone has been eager to get back in person. However, there was a tradeoff,” Piccolo wrote in an email to The Sun. “Instead of facing challenges with technical difficulties over Zoom, we are now faced with challenges in booking spaces and ensuring the health and safety of everyone who participates in our club events.”
In many cases, those now in club leadership positions have never physically met the other people they have worked with for nearly a year — or the spaces where they typically gather.
Student Assembly College of Human Ecology Representative Claire Tempelman ’24 had only seen photos of the iconic Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room before stepping foot in it for the first time this year. Even though the S.A. followed parliamentary procedure over Zoom, having in-person debate was an entirely new experience for Templeman.
“Seeing people I had only seen over Zoom before felt strange,” Tempelman said. “While I technically have a year’s worth of experience, it feels like I’m a new member in a lot of ways.”
Tasked with rebuilding the organizations after Zoom waned interest, leaders have relied on advisers and previous e-board members to move the club forward while also staying true to the traditions that some leaders have never even had the opportunity to experience.