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  • Collegian staff

Some distanced, others virtual: club presidents detail student involvement

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Sanja Zelen

Staff writer

Student clubs and organizations on campus have been busy brainstorming ways to carry on weekly, monthly and yearly events and traditions this semester. Although many events and meetings look different this semester, joining a club is a way for students to continue “being together while staying apart,” according to New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope ( Many clubs and student organizations are carrying on weekly meetings on Zoom as a way to continue fostering relationships between students and providing stress relief. The Newman, soccer, Russian and German clubs are just a few of the clubs that are thinking of creative ways to meet and bond, with hopes of planning in-person events soon.

President of Newman club Gregory Gandy shared that Newman club, a Catholic group, has been continuing meetings via Zoom. They have had to cancel most in-person events: “We’re meeting weekly on Wednesday at 7 p.m. for one hour for club meetings. Normally we would also meet weekly and we would do other events together such as going to Mass but we no longer do that due to COVID and social distancing.”

Gandy said that the club has plans to integrate symposiums into its agenda again. “We have a calendar of meeting topics that we’ve been working on and we’ve been talking about different theological topics. I’m going to contact different people in the area to do different Zoom talks. We have a learning platform we accessed through the church too.”

Captain of the soccer club Ami Santillan explained that having in-person practice is a likely possibility. Zoom bonding events would be an option as well. “I asked people whether they wanted to meet. There were mixed feelings. Overall they said yes, they wanted to meet, so I’m going to try to push to meet in the next maybe one or two weeks. I don’t know if it’s ideal to have practices yet, just because everyone’s super stressed out.”

Games against other colleges are not possible due to Willamette policies prohibiting on-campus visitors and off-campus travel.

Santillan explained how practice would work: “There are quite a few drills that can be done within a six-foot distance, which is awesome. I think we are going to meet in person on the field, probably do some conditioning drills. We can’t be scrimmaging full-contact, but I think that gives us a lot of opportunities to meet in-person. I don’t think it’d be a problem capacity-wise. Even if we did have a lot of people coming, we have the whole field, so I think it’s very manageable if people cooperate and do their part.”

President of Russian club Christina Clothier said that Russian club will also try to incorporate some in-person events. Clothier wants the club to be hybrid this semester, with a mix of in-person and Zoom meetings. The club is currently meeting on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m..

“If people want to be outside, we can be in-person. Our meetings are usually smaller, so based off of that, we could do some inside stuff, if people feel comfortable with that. However, we will do Zoom meetings for movies and T.V. shows, or if people one week decide they want to stay in their room, we’ll be responsive to that,” Clothier said. “I’m thinking of emailing out cool Slavic holidays and informing people who can’t make it to the meetings, because I want to keep them engaged.”

German club Co-President Helena Wetzel discussed plans for this semester. While German club does not have a tentative meeting time yet, Wetzel had several ideas for activities that would work online.

“The current plan is to do virtual tea time where we all talk about our weeks and drink tea over Zoom. Another idea is to do a Kahoot where we do a game night on German Culture. I was also thinking of doing a book club related to German culture, either in German or English. A movie night over Zoom is possible.” Wetzel said that German club would likely meet on Tuesdays or Thursdays in the future.

Club presidents and co-presidents revealed the highlights of their time in their respective clubs, as well as some positive outcomes students can expect from joining.

“It’s a great way to get exercise and still have fun,” Santillan said of soccer club. “It’s a great way to destress and hang out with a fun group of people.”

“Anyone can join Newman club, regardless of their religious affiliation,” Gandy said. “In the past many of our members haven’t even been Catholic- they were friends with people who were Catholic. A lot of humanities students who are interested in philosophy and theology also attend[ed] our Newman meetings. There’s intellectual diversity that’s hard to find at Willamette sometimes, from different backgrounds and beliefs.”

Clothier said of Russian club: “It’s not a huge commitment. You can come when you want and have fun with us. We have candy. What drew me to it last year was just how fun it was. Everyone was there to talk about [Slavic culture] and learn more. There are all different levels [of knowledge] and everyone is there to have fun.”

Wetzel appreciated a professor’s support of German club: “We’re all supported by Professor [Aili] Zheng. If anyone needs a sense of community during this time, the German club is a good place to find that.”

Sports, religion and language clubs make up only a handful of the clubs that are operating either normally, on Zoom or in a hybrid format this semester. Stitch n Bitch, Willamette’s knitting club, meets on Thursdays at 8 p.m. over Zoom. The Outdoor Program has been brainstorming ways to visit locations within walking distance of campus, such as Riverfront Park and Bush Park. WEB (Willamette Events Board) already hosted an in-person ‘Welcome Back Evening’ on August 28 and has plans to welcome performers and speakers to Willamette via Zoom.

Contact information for all club leaders can be found by searching “List of Student Organizations” on Willamette’s website. Club leaders can add students to their club’s listserv and roster to provide more meeting information and keep them in the loop.

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