Students awaited the opening of the Student Organization and Volunteer Opportunities Fair at the Stuart C. Siegel Center this Friday with a buzz of anticipation. Before the fair officially opened its doors at 3 p.m., students crowded the entrance clutching goldenrod diagrams of the arena and VCU USCA bags that would later be filled with brochures and giveaways.
According to Carolyn E. Whittier, associate director of programs and educational services, about 5,000 students attended the fair, with 275 organizations occupying 310 tables.
Natasha Kovacs, a freshman at the Art Foundation, was excited to get to the fair and get the scoop on what exactly there is to be involved in at VCU. “I just want to see what clubs there are,” Kovacs said. “I don’t know what I want to do exactly; maybe I’ll find like a German Club or something that might make me change my major. You never know.” Kovacs is interested in trying something new, like a Ballroom Dance Club.
As the doors opened, students poured into the floor of the arena, crowding tables and grabbing giveaways they could get their hands on.
Lucien Kastivo, a representative from the Shafer Alliance Laboratory Theater (SALT) agreed. “We haven’t been able to advertise much in the past because our organization was only open to theater majors,” Kastivo said. “But now that we’ve changed our policies, we’re really hoping to get more students involved.”
SALT ran more than 20 student productions last year, and had an average member base of about 50. Kastivo expressed his hopes this year for many more new members, and as his first time ever attending the SOVO fair, he was surprised by the many other student organizations available to students. “It is so important for students to be involved,” she said. “I wish I did this before; I never knew all of this existed.”
Alongside the special interest organizations like Quiddich Club, running clubs, fraternities, cultural clubs and even a club for scrabble players were volunteer and service organizations. Another key component to student involvement at VCU, said Richmond Department of Justice Services Cultural Enrichment Coordinator Rosalind Battle, is giving back to the community.
“I’m here to let our students know about the volunteer and internship opportunities in our area,” she said. “They want to be civically aware and civically engaged. And after all that we have received we need to give back too.”
Area organizations like the Bon Secours Hospice, Virginia Supportive Housing, Cheseapeake Bay Foundation, the Children’s Museum of Richmond and many other groups had tables at the SOVO fair to give information to students about the local opportunities to volunteer.
“We’re giving out a lot of info and contact information, a lot of networking, but I’m also here enjoying watching the beautiful youth, and to encourage them,” said Battle. “I’m happy to be in the same atmosphere and to find out about a lot of services and programs available to VCU students that I didn’t know about before.”
But the SOVO fair does not just help new VCU students get involved; it has also helped returning students, like senior Daniel Phan, get involved too. “I like to go around and see what other organizations are offering,” he said. “There is a lot, and I’ve signed up for a lot of newsletters, just to see if I’m interested right now.”
Phan, a mechanical engineering major, believes there is a lot students can gain from joining clubs, especially as freshmen.
“I didn’t join anything my freshman year and I kind of regret it. It’s important, and I feel like freshmen don’t know what we have to offer. This really gives people a better perspective.”
As the SOVO Fair of 2010 came to a close at 6:00 on Friday, students left with heavy bags and lots of possibilities.