Thousands of students participated in the University’s first-ever virtual Student Involvement Fair (SIF) from Sept. 3 to Sept. 5. Through the event, interested students talked to representatives from over 300 student organizations through Zoom and chat messages.
Freshman Gabe Gormezano, who attended SIF, stated that he was very pleased with the online experience.
“It was pretty comparable [to an in-person event] in terms of getting the information and getting to register for clubs,” he said. “It was definitely the best alternative that could have been done, given our current circumstances.”
SIF was held Thursday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m on CampusGroups.
Director of Student Leadership and Involvement Calvin L. Smith, Jr., who organized the event, explained in an email to The News-Letter that SIF was purposefully held at varied times in order to make it easier for students in different time zones to attend.
Smith shared that although moving SIF online had been a challenge, he felt his team was successful.
“Our goal was to find a system that would mimic our in-person experience. Based on our research we thought this platform was the closest we could get to replicating that environment,“ Smith wrote. “We far exceeded our expectations in terms of participants... and the feedback based on our SIF fair post-survey was positive.”
By the end of the weekend, SIF reported approximately 27,000 booth visits, 14,500 chat messages and 2,000 video conference participants.
Life Design Assistant Director for Student Leadership and Involvement Hope Burke said that she appreciated how easy it was to meet a wide variety of groups in a short amount of time.
“I wanted to leverage the Student Involvement Fair to go out and actually chat with different student organizations about how we might be able to partner together,” she said. “In the spring, I went to the Spring Involvement Fair in-person. I found it really hard to make my way around and talk to a lot of people, and so I felt that doing it virtually allowed me to connect with more people.”
However, not all participants were satisfied with the virtual experience.
Freshman Chuofan Yu wrote in an email to The News-Letter that while he genuinely appreciated the effort put into SIF, it did not compare to an on-campus event.
“It’s way less exciting than the actual in-person fair,” he wrote. “I don’t get to interact with people face-to-face and make connections. [It is] definitely a slightly lonely experience if you’re not very extroverted.”
Some students in charge of running organizations’ booths were also unhappy with their experience.
Junior Amal Hayat, who ran booths for both the Hopkins Student Organization for Programming (HOP) and the Pi Beta Phi sorority, expressed frustration that booths with higher interaction levels were placed at the top of the list of organizations. Hayat noted that less popular clubs were put at a severe disadvantage by making them harder to find.
“Clubs that are not interacted with won’t get any views and therefore will stay on the bottom... It makes it difficult for some clubs to get recognition,” Hayat said. “When the virtual fair was in-person, I remember having a long line of students wanting to join the HOP. This time I’m a little bit worried to see what the turnout of people who actually want to be in this club will look like.”
However, Hayat still felt that virtual SIF was overall well organized.
“Despite everything, most clubs got at least a couple of members interested in them, and I’m excited to see how [virtual fairs] will work in the future,” she said.
Junior Yvette Bailey-Emberson, who ran booths for bARTimore and Hoptoberfest also expressed that the event was a good alternative to an in-person experience.
“I don’t know if there was as much traffic as expected, but those who wanted to use it were able to use it well,” she said.