Unlike years past, the Petersen Events Center remained empty and quiet for Pitt’s annual Activities Fair on Saturday.
Instead, students flocked to virtual Zoom calls to find social, service, sport and academic organizations to join. Held from 1-3 p.m. online through Campus Labs, the virtual Activities Fair featured 424 clubs, each with their own virtual room for students to drop in to learn more about the organization, ask questions and express their interest.
Meera Garg, a junior biological sciences major, is the president of the co-ed pre-health fraternity Delta Epsilon Mu. Though the fraternity usually uses the in-person Activities Fair as a crucial way to connect with many first-year students, Garg said the organization had no trouble adapting to the virtual format.
“From the perspective of running a club, it was very easy to set up because we joined from home and talked through the slideshow,” Garg said. “I was able to have a lot more dedicated conversational time with all the interested students without the chaos of the in-person Activities Fair.”
Zane Elgogari, a senior rehabilitation science major, serves as vice president for Delta Epsilon Mu. Though he agreed the virtual fair was successful, the advantages of an in-person fair remained clear. When students navigated to Campus Labs and logged in with their Pitt credentials, the page they saw had hundreds of clubs organized alphabetically, making it difficult if students hadn’t already determined which clubs they wanted to learn more about.
“Something helpful about the in-person Activities Fair is that it’s segregated by topic, so one whole row is dedicated to music, another for service and so on,” Elgogari said. “Virtually, it felt a little chaotic. The best part of the in-person Activities Fair is stumbling upon organizations you didn’t know existed and connecting through spontaneous conversations.”
For many first-year students, the Activities Fair is the first view at the diversity of organizations the University has to offer. First-year neuroscience major Anjali Shah said she was excited to join clubs to meet people with similar interests.
“Most clubs were super accommodating and have moved all their meetings online,” Shah said. “I was glad because I’m staying remote this semester, so I knew I wouldn’t be missing out on anything.”
One of the clubs she was interested in, The Imagination Project, visits the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville with members dressed up as princesses and other characters to bring some humor and happiness to the kids. But they will have other opportunities available even if club members won’t physically be at Pitt this fall.
Though she liked the structure of the fair, Shah noted the virtual fair was delivered in a presentational style and would have preferred the easier-to-navigate, conversational in-person fair instead.
After joining interest lists, students will be able to participate in general body meetings for each club virtually, as well. For clubs like Delta Epsilon Mu, the transition to conducting their activities virtually has been smooth.
“At first, it was a challenge to come up with virtual events, but we’re becoming more and more creative,” Garg said. “I’ve heard service organizations doing Zoom calls with elderly residents in a nursing home. Our educational events became easier to plan, since we can easily host panels with health care professionals and our alumni who live across the country.”
Due to the ease of hosting the virtual Activities Fair, Garg said the future of the Activities Fair could hold a combination of an in-person and virtual experience.
“For students who aren’t able to walk through all the clubs, they can still have this opportunity. Combining both in the future is something that I’d definitely look forward to,” Garg said.