The transition to a digital campus didn’t just impact classes- college clubs had to find their new footing in a remote world. Now, two years later the clubs of Sierra have experienced functioning remotely, on-ground, and in hybrid forms, and have a sense of what the future of clubs at Sierra holds.
Getting Comfortable in Digital Spaces
During the pandemic, many clubs adapted to virtual platforms such as Discord and Zoom- both of which are still used today. Discord is used by millions in public or private ‘servers’ and direct chats. Users can communicate via voice, video, and text. Zoom is predominately used for virtual face-to-face interactions through webcams that connect people remotely. Some colleges in the U.S. found other mediums to keep their clubs going, such as clubs creating their own websites or curating strong social media presences.
Club leaders at Sierra College report that the transition to an online format hit some harder than others. Former Video Game club president, Kyle Archug, recalls that the club’s “first order of business” was to get its own Discord server up and running in 2019 when the club first formed. Because their members were already familiar with the platform, the club had a significant presence on Discord before COVID-19 transitioned the globe to internet social circles.
Archung reports that the club’s server has upwards of a hundred people that have joined. Being familiar with technology, members were able to understand Discord better than others may have. However, Archung remembers that there were participation and community issues with this fully online format.
“It’s been rough,” Archung said.
He says that having a video games club is difficult because all new members that join are coming in familiar with different games. “Everybody has different things in mind when they join and it’s hard to get them to interact,” Archung said.
There’s also no verification of if visitors joining are students at Sierra College or not, since all one has to do to enter the club is type in its discord link. Archung reports that the club’s server has upwards of a hundred people that have joined.
Clubs with an emphasis on outdoor activities found it hard to adjust at the start. Sierra’s club for Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students (ECOS) would like to engage in activities such as hikes and trash pickups. Since the pandemic, ECOS has been an entirely remote club and still is.
Kendric Moore, president of Sierra College’s Robotics Club, has been involved for four years. Before the pandemic, the Robotics Club promoted itself mostly through flyers and club days on campus. The pandemic changed that.
“We were fairly quiet during that time period… There weren’t as many opportunities to promote- at least in terms of possibilities put on by the school,” Moore said.
The Robotics Club jumped at the first opportunity to meet back on-ground. He and three other members of his club sat at a table for the Robotics Club on March 30th, ready to let students passing by Dietrich Theater know that this- and every other club- was an option for anyone. Moore recalls that at one point they had twenty to thirty members. Spring of 2020 was the “perfect storm” for the club.
“We had a lot of previous members graduate and move on and then COVID hit as well, so we lost the majority of the few that remained.”
Between COVID-19 and graduates, the club was knocked down to about three or four members. With membership low and no longer being in the same building with their projects, Moore says many projects had to be tabled.
“We were working on a lot of stuff we find fun and real, but with just the three of us, we couldn’t focus. We had to select,” Moore said.
Ruby Chavez DeChavez is an active member and leader of Sierra’s Poli-Sci, Art, and Social Science club, all of which meet over Zoom and chat in Discord. There is a convenience to remote communication. When it comes to what areas clubs did better in the online format than on-ground DeChavez said,
“I think probably the only [area] is making it accessible for all the students.”
This point was echoed by the others.
Anthony Morrison of the Intervarsity Christian club said, “It’s my personal opinion that the online function of clubs is really only good for distributing information, I think, for meetings and getting together for events.” But as for fostering community amidst the club, that “really only works in person.” This is a perspective Morrison shared with many of the students interviewed at Sierra’s March outdoor Club Day.
While the campus is open for classes once more, not all clubs have immediately transitioned back. The video games club continues to operate completely remote and the Discord has multiple servers for different games such as PC, Nintendo, and Playstation. Archung hopes that the club will expand to campus soon and set up a gaming station somewhere on campus so that passing students can play Clone Hero, a game similar to Guitar Hero, for free.
“It’d be perfect. Just two minute long things, anybody can pick up and play. I think it’s a great idea,” he says.
Currently, the robotics club is one of few completely on-ground clubs. Many clubs around Sierra have settled on a hybrid system for now.
With this, membership and participation grow. Remote clubs have found retaining active members the hardest part of the transition to an online status and still find it difficult now as students return to campus.
“Just look for something that you’re interested in and do your best to stay with it,” Moore stated.
For clubs and their communities, the pandemic was an adjustment. Long-lasting clubs were used to the projects and participation they would have in their campus meetings. New clubs struggled to get the word out. Some forming clubs did not get the chance to get on their feet before COVID-19 hit. Nevertheless, Sierra College’s clubs are up and running- excited for new members. Ultimately, community requires participation.
“Clubs are only active if you make them active. If you want an active community, join a community and be active,” Archung stated.
Written by Olivia Walters | Graphic by Mohamed Hassan, Pixabay
Written by Olivia Walters | Graphic by Mohamed Hassan, Pixabay