From coffee to cats, students explore varied interests at club fair

Students test their vertical leap at the Ultimate Frisbee booth during the Club and Community Fair on Wednesday.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

The Canyon Activity Center was packed Wednesday night with Grand Canyon University students shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder through rows of display tables at the Club and Community Fair, the event that closed out 10 days of Welcome Week.

Especially for freshmen, it’s a great way to find their community on campus and even lasting friendships, said Clubs and Organizations Manager Abigail Castillo.

“Talk to alumni and they tell you many of the people they meet in clubs are in their weddings,” she said.

Last year, student clubs held 485 events and more than 3,500 meetings.

Nearly 100 clubs, as well as Club Sports teams, set up displays enticing students, roughly the same number as last year, but what was astounding to Castillo was the variety of clubs created and run by students.

For every professional club for chemistry enthusiasts or future social workers, there is a club for people who simply like to play board games. For every club for African or Latino students, there is a club for hip-hop dancers or automobile enthusiasts.

We talked to organizers of clubs mentioned by Castillo to get the flavor of what students are excited about in 2023.

The Coffee Club started this year. Students in the club visit Valley coffee venues together.

Interesting new clubs

Sophomore Quashaya Johnson had a simple reason why she wanted to start the Coffee Club. She loves coffee. “It’s all about the flavors and what you can do with it,” she said. So the Starbucks barista served samples while telling students how the group meets one Saturday a month at interesting coffee bars in the Valley to socialize and caffeinate. One of her personal favorites is Black Rock, but a big list of venues is being compiled for the semester. Like many clubs, they aim to also give back to the community. Coffee Club raises money for Phoenix Rescue Mission.

Michael Carrera Fitch explains the purpose of his new Boys 2 Men group, which explores masculinity.

Clubs also can create a safe space for groups who need them. To student Michael Carrera Fitch, that is young men who need an avenue to explore masculinity in a culture that he says confuses its meaning. Boys 2 Men welcomes any student to bond with other men when that’s become difficult for many, he said. Young men in his generation can be confused or embarrassed about masculinity, he continued, and perhaps have lost sight of their goals to protect and provide while growing an emotional intelligence to lead and not just react irrationally or aggressively to situations, “especially for men who grew up without fathers, like myself.”

Senior Hayden Smart, who is co-president of Snow Lopes, talks with students about Flagstaff trips.

Interesting returning clubs

Talk about variety. You have the Snow Lopes, which sounds odd on a desert campus. But this club, founded by Nick Wilshire, leads a group of students for a low cost on regular downhill skiing trips to Flagstaff. Co-president Hayden Smart said skiing was a way of life for his family in Michigan, and Snow Lopes offers a way for others to experience the sport. The club is giving away a single-day pass to Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff. One student who went last year had not only never skied before but had never seen snow before. For Smart, witnessing the student’s joy in the discovery was better than a slope of perfect snow.

Members of the TNR Club talk to students on how the group helps support cats on campus.

The TNR Club is far from the slopes. It does its work right on campus, caring for stray cats who find their way on the property. They feed and occasionally have the cats neutered and offered to an adoption agency, said club vice president Kayla Kunsman, who obviously adores cats. “It’s fun to take care of them,” she said.

Joseph Martinez (from left) and Taurus Williams of the Medieval Combat Club talk foam swords and shields with freshman Jeanie Hunt during the Club and Community Fair.

Fast-growing club

You may have seen this group out on Prescott Field and wondered what is going on. Senior Joseph Martinez and his merry band of often costumed fighters might be holding a sword and fighting in the Medieval Combat Club. “It’s foam so, no, it doesn’t hurt,” he said. The club has grown from a handful of enthusiasts eight years ago to as many as 60 for an event that plays games like capture the flag, which Martinez says teaches team building. Acting skills in the role-playing games are optional.

Members of HOSA describe the club's purpose for future health care professionals.

Largest club

While the atypical is fun to consider, many clubs serve to explore the career interest of students, whether its finance or nursing. GCU’s HOSA for future health care professionals typically has nearly 400 members who can learn valuable skills in events such as CPR clinics, preparation for medical school admission tests or trips to health care facilities. But it’s not all career striving, said club officer Parker Barr. The club also partners with local organizations to do volunteer work.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

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