Representatives of more than 120 student organizations gathered on September 7 to showcase their work, mission, and community spirit at St. John’s University’s Fall Student Activities Fair.
Enthusiastic club leaders lined the Great Lawn of the University’s Queens, NY, campus, offering prospective new members a glimpse of what campus life offers. Despite the day’s heat, spirits were high.
“Joining this club is an opportunity for our fellow students to remember that not everyone is as fortunate as we are,” said Sara Kurutz, Vice President of the University’s chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
“We’re blessed to be able to go to college—and to go here,” continued Sara, a senior studying Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. “Membership in the society is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our kindness, humility, and compassion.”
One of the oldest clubs on campus, the Chappell Players Theater Group, was hoping to recruit new members to assist with its production of the musical Pippin in October. “There are opportunities for everyone here, even if you don’t have a theater background,” said Theater Group President Faith Grady, a senior from Farmingdale, NY. “I had never been on stage and now I am the president of the group.” She said new members can apply to be performers, stage designers, choreographers, publicists, and more.
Members of the Women in STEM club were busy educating potential new members about opportunities for work and research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. “We are committed to breaking the glass ceiling that has existed for women in STEM fields,” said Isabella Scirica, Event Coordinator for the club and a Biology major, who noted that as of 2021, fewer than one-third of those in STEM careers were women.
Students looking to nurture their entrepreneurial spirit found opportunities in several University-sponsored competitions in which they could develop ideas and showcase them in front of professionals. The Pitch Johnny Competition is a Shark Tank-like contest organized by the The Lesley H. and William L. College of Professional Studies (CCPS). Participants present business ideas to a “jury” of industry professionals for a chance to win financial incentives that can be used to turn those ideas into reality.
“We have many entrepreneurial students,” said Miriam Prever, a second-year Ph.D. student in Multi-Sector Communication and a doctoral fellow at CCPS. “This is a way for them to get in front of experts and really show their ideas.”
The activities fair also showcased clubs in emerging fields. Denise Maldonado, a senior from Waco, TX, is the manager of the University’s eSports Club, which has more than doubled in size to 100 members over the past four years and is still growing. “So many people love to play video games to relieve stress and to meet other people,” Denise said. “With eSports, you can interact with others without having to be there in person. If you like video games, this is a wonderful place to start competing.”
Students interested in the environment sought out representatives of the Earth Club, the Student Sustainability Team, and Catholic Relief Services’ environmental subcommittee. Lucas Shears, Vice President of the Earth Club and a member of the Sustainability Team, brought boxes of freshly picked peppers and cherry tomatoes from the reopened organic garden behind Donovan Hall.
Lucas said he and fellow club members grow their produce without the use of pesticides. Whatever is not consumed on campus is donated to the St. John’s Bread and Life food pantry in Brooklyn, NY. “We grow five different varieties of tomatoes, four varieties of peppers, eggplant, squash, and cucumbers,” Lucas said.
Some representatives reminded students that club membership does not have to end with graduation. In particular, Haraya, the Pan-African student coalition on campus, emphasized its strong alumni network. Diana Tachie-Mensah, Chair of Activities at Haraya, said the organization updates club alumni about upcoming events so they can join and meet current members.
“We are really close,” she said. “We are a tight-knit group.”
St. John’s graduate and alumnus of several clubs, including Haraya, Ezekiel O. Akinyemi, ’08TCB, also known as DJ Zeke, was in charge of the music and good mood during the event.
He reminisced about his time on campus and why it is important to remain involved with the St. John’s community. “I happily return to these events on campus,” he said. “They can call me any time. I could be 100 years old and I will still come.”