At Student Involvement Fair, More Emphasis on Civic Engagement
On a Friday afternoon on Huss Courtyard, hundreds of students clustered around tables in long unbroken rows, asked questions—or, given the music thumping from the PA system, shouted them—grabbed flyers and stickers, and scrawled their signatures on sign-up sheets.
Once again, this year’s Wesleyan’s annual Student Involvement Fair showcased the spectrum of athletic, creative, cultural, and social clubs and activities on campus at the dawn of the academic year. As students looked for community many gravitated toward organizations devoted to civic engagement in all its forms, providing a chance to direct their passion in ways that can make an impact, whether in Middlesex County or around the globe.
As issues surrounding climate change move into the foreground, Sunrise Movement Wesleyan—the campus branch of the national youth-led climate action organization—has seen an uptick in interest. “We’re seeing a moment in politics and the world in general where people are starting to realize how important climate justice is, and how detrimental climate change can be,” said Lily Krug ’24.
At the Student Involvement Fair, Krug detailed the group’s recent efforts, like providing early feedback on Wesleyan’s sustainability strategic plan. Last April, Sunrise Wesleyan arranged an Earth Day event on campus and participated in a climate strike at the state capitol. “Sunrise gives students an ability to make a change even if you haven’t entered the real world yet—whatever that means—and it’s a great way to fight for climate justice and meet people who are likeminded.”
At the table for One for the World Wesleyan, Patrick Lenard ’23 pitched students on the philanthropy group, and sought Wesleyan graduates to contribute toward a portfolio of charities—largely targeted at issues around health, hunger, and poverty in developing countries—by committing to donating 1% of their future income. “It could be at any point in their career—either right out of college or even when they’re 45,” Lenard said.
Representatives for Wesleyan Food Rescue talked about serving needy individuals right here in in Middletown. Seven days a week, student volunteers bring leftover food from Usdan, Summerfields, and Pi Café—food that would otherwise be discarded—to Eddy Shelter, an emergency shelter minutes from campus on Labella Circle. Last semester, Food Rescue delivered and donated 285 trays of food from Usdan alone to the shelter. “The last time I checked, we were the only reliable and consistent food source” for the shelter, said Lucia Voges ’24.
Meanwhile, Wesleyan Reproductive Advocacy and Legislation (WRAL) saw a spike in interest after news leaked that Roe v. Wade would be overturned. “It’s sad given the circumstance, but it’s awesome that people are really trying to get involved right now,” Abby Nicholson ’23, who staffed the WRAL table at the Student Involvement Fair.
Days after that news broke, WRAL participated in a nationwide campus protest, hosted legislative action workshops focused on issues related to abortion, and led a successful fundraising campaign. Now, the group is hoping to expand outside of Connecticut to reach those who need the most help, Nicholson said. “Given that Roe is not protecting people in the way that it used to, grassroots advocacy is really important right now. It’s important for people to be on the ground, and even though we’re just a small group on campus, [we] can make a big impact,” she said.
The Student Involvement Fair wasn’t all about civic engagement, with clubs and groups devoted to everything from botany to women’s rugby, sailing to student literary magazines. And after so much time navigating the uncertainties of COVID-19, returning students were glad to see a return to routine.
“I’d seen things before the COVID phase, and I kind of missed this vibe,” said Henry Yang ’23, who’d rejoined the club soccer and hockey teams at the fair. “It’s good to have everything back. Actually, it’s better now—I mean, we have ice cream trucks and we didn’t have those before.”
And for newly arriving students, the fair was a chance to broaden their horizons. Madeleine Dawson ’24, a transfer student settling into her first semester on campus, signed up for “a whole bunch” of activities, including water polo and Consulting Pathways. She planned to pursue a range of interests, then stick with what resonated. “There’s a really great variety,” Dawson said. “I think, as someone who’s very interdisciplinary and multifaceted, I can find whatever I want to do at Wesleyan . . . Everyone is welcoming, and overall, I’m super-excited to get more involved.”