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Rutgers student organizations discuss transition to online platforms

Shree Raghavan, a Rutgers Business School junior serving as director of communications on the Little Investment Bankers of Rutgers executive board, said the club usually recruits new members in-person through the involvement fair, but now must connect with students virtually. 
Photo by Photo by Rutgers.edu | The Daily TargumShree Raghavan, a Rutgers Business School junior serving as director of communications on the Little Investment Bankers of Rutgers executive board, said the club usually recruits new members in-person through the involvement fair, but now must connect with students virtually. 

As the Fall 2020 semester begins, clubs and organizations at Rutgers have begun opening their doors to new and returning members, but are learning to do so in an entirely virtual format. 

Shree Raghavan, a Rutgers Business School junior serving as director of communications on the Little Investment Bankers of Rutgers (LIBOR) executive board, spoke on some of the main challenges the largest finance club on campus faces, including disseminating information and recruiting new members

“There are two parts: one, and this impacts every club, — the University had a freeze in its budget, and (it) isn't getting the funding (it) did before,” she said. “For organizations that use subscriptions to get information out — and we use a third party email service to send out mass emails — it costs money, so we’ve had to find ways to send newsletters and weekly emails through Rutgers, not third party (companies). There’s a lot Rutgers offers that we’ve had to learn.” 

As for recruitment, the second challenge, LIBOR usually draws students in through the involvement fair, Raghavan said.

“We’ve had to figure out how to get (first-years) to join our club and pitch ourselves to them in a virtual format which is a lot harder on Zoom than in person,” she said.

Other organizations face similar challenges. Janvi Patel, a School of Arts and Sciences senior serving as the vice president of recruitment for the medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon, said moving online has affected recruitment efforts that would typically heavily involve attending events and meeting service requirements.

“Coming out to recruitment is one of the biggest requirements and would take place almost every day at the beginning of the semester, so it was huge being able to see each other before,” Patel said. “(Fraternity) members are very close, and we’d do events that’d keep people close especially through recruitment. Now that it’s online ... we need to run events differently.”

To make the process easier and more accessible to those interested, Patel said Phi Delta Epsilon is taking to social media.

“We’ve ramped up our Instagram recently and changed our Facebook. We’re making it a lot easier for rushes because having things online is pretty difficult, and now we’re trying to make it easier for rushes to show their interest. We’re creating QR codes for Linktree for everything they can fill out for us,” Patel said.

Maggie Ngai, a School of Arts and Sciences senior serving on the executive board of Intervarsity, said the Christian organization is also using social media to reach a wider audience. The organization began an initiative in August to connect with Rutgers first-years through its Instagram account. 

“We made three teams: a follow team, analytics team (and) follow up team. It was really helpful to gauge the amount of people interested in a welcome week event,” Ngai said. “We had (approximately) a total of at least 15 freshman who came out ... At the end of August, we had a welcome weekend event that was posted on RU getINVOLVED, Instagram and Facebook.”

Phi Delta Epsilon has used technology to make its meetings as interactive as possible, Patel said. 

“Right now, we’re using really cool platforms we’ve heard about. We’ve used breakout sessions in Zoom for rush members to speak not only one-on-one but (also) in groups. We’re also using Icebreaker, which is known for one-on-one interactions. Through our programming, we’re also trying to connect doing cool games that are for many people,” Patel said.

LIBOR normally holds events for its members where potential employers will do networking and information sessions, which Raghavan said will likely continue over Zoom instead of in-person. 

“It’s more important for clubs to operate now than ever before because it’s so fundamental to the development of (first-years), and two because it’s important for the lifeline of your club,” Raghavan said. “I think within finance, (the) recruiting cycle is so early that it’s super important for people to get involved with (a) finance organization (your first) year if they’re interested in pursuing that career.”

Ngai said Intervarsity is also trying to maintain a normal schedule while working remotely to give students a sense of community. 

“Getting involved is such an important aspect because it’s an experience you can get specifically at college,” Ngai said. “Studying is important, but getting involved in (extracurriculars) and having a group of friends and people to lean on emotionally and mentally (is) comforting. You could have a group of people or (a) club that you can return to see again next semester or following semesters.”

Moving forward, Raghavan said clubs and organizations will aim to maintain the new normal of an online format and seek ways to improve.

“Planning hasn’t been difficult, it’s more of the execution that we’ll see about. It’s not a necessity to be in-person, while it’s preferred,” Raghavan said. “I think you still have to be in college to experience it to the fullest extent, but it’s definitely doable virtually, and that applies to multiple organizations as well.”