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I am a third year English Major at the University of Maine. In my free time I can be found playing rugby, working out, or enjoying a good book.

The University of Maine hosted a Student Organization Fair virtually via Zoom on Feb. 9-11. The event was hosted by the UMaine Center for Student Involvement (CSI) and included a handful of sororities, fraternities, and clubs from across the university. There was also a JBL speaker up for raffle to all those who attended the fair.

For three days this past week between 3-5 p.m. several organizations hosted Zoom breakout sessions to answer questions about their clubs in lieu of an in-person organization fair. The process worked as follows: students visiting the organization fair entered into the main session, where there was a slide of all of the organizations present at the fair. Students could then choose to open a menu which showed all of the available breakout rooms, and all of the club members present in each one, and decide from there which room they would like to go to.

A few clubs shared how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their recruitment efforts.

Elisabeth Adams, a fourth-year childhood development and family relations student and the president of the UMaine women’s rugby club, was present in Wednesday’s Zoom session. 

“There haven’t been many people so far,” Adams said about attendance. Usually the in-person organization fairs would bring in a lot of new recruits. “We used to have around 40 people sign up.”

The club will continue to hold virtual and COVID-19 safe, in-person events for the remainder of the semester.

“We have once a week practices, with a few fundraising events,” Adams said adding that she was hopeful about having some kind of a virtual banquet to keep team spirits up. “It’s important to remember the things we can do, and can celebrate in a time of great loss.”

While the online organization fair certainly wasn’t ideal for many clubs,  Adams still expressed that she was grateful for the opportunity to try and meet potential new members.

Heather Hogan, the Coordinator for Student Organizations, expressed similar sentiments about the importance of the virtual Organization Fair.

“It’s been kind of slow, the fall organization fair is usually better attended,” Hogan said, expressing that the low turnout was to be expected for the spring Organization Fair.

Hogan explained that holding events such as virtual fairs during times like these is important.

“The pandemic is posing new challenges,” Hogan said, “Even if we are able to connect a handful of students to new clubs then it’s worthwhile.”

The UMaine 3D Printing Club made the most of the virtual fair with a full slideshow presentation to give to students in order to demonstrate the sort of work they do in their 3D Printing Lab.

“Seeing the printers in person draws people’s attention more than being online does,”  Emmy Giardina, a fourth-year mechanical engineering technology student, said. She and fellow club members reflected on how during in-person organization fairs they would demonstrate how the printers worked to passers by on the mall.

“My first year on campus I remember the new sign-up email list being in the triple digits,” Mackenzie Ladd, the vice president of the club and a third-year mechanical engineering student said, compared to this past week in which they only had one new recruit to the club.

“It’s definitely still helpful, but most students don’t know how to get to the online fair,” Dominic Agneta, a third-year mechanical engineering student and president of the 3D printing clubb, said. “We usually present to the [Mechanical Engineering] 101 lectures to keep recruitment up.”

They expressed that they missed the in-person organization fair, but even though the virtual fair was not the same it was still nice to talk to at least a few people.

The CSI is hosting the annual Winter Carnival the week of Feb. 16, so be on the lookout for activities, games and prizes. For more information about upcoming activities and events offered through the CSI, be sure to check out their website, and keep your eye out for their emails.