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COVID or not, Clubs Inoculate Students Against Disconnection

By Gabrielle Russon

At universities across the country, student clubs took a hit during the pandemic. Clubs shrank. Some shut down completely. Many have been in rebuilding mode ever since.

The Chronicle of Higher Education described the student organizations’ collapse in a recent story called “Why Campus Life Fell Apart.

But at Beacon College, something remarkable happened. Student organizations held strong.

The Beacon students who loved wrestling got together to watch WWE in their club. Horse aficionados rode animals together in the equestrian club. The natural performers sang and danced in front of each other during Beacon’s Got Talent.

About 480 members were involved in 22 clubs by summer 2021, according to Hanah Diebold, Beacon’s director of student experience who oversees student clubs and leadership.

Bucking the Trend

Diebold explained why Beacon bucked the trend. What made Beacon so unique was the school’s in-person activities and classes continued during the pandemic while some schools halted regular classes and went virtual only. Within the Beacon bubble, students still met in person for clubs. Clubs were some of the few outlets for fun during the campus quarantine, so students showed up, Diebold said.

Being in person just beats live streaming which helped Beacon student clubs thrive during the pandemic, Diebold said.

“There is a different sense of connection that comes with it. Being in person just can’t be replaced,” she said.

That certainly holds true for Beacon’s Got Talent, the club Zachary Murray now oversees, which allows its now 25-30 members to share their talent for singing, dancing, or playing an instrument with the Beacon community. Murray said the club was popular during the pandemic and survived the uncertainty because “of the people and the community of the club. Students are attracted to the club because it’s inclusive, welcoming, chaotic and fun.”

To be stuck on campus, having friends makes it a lot easier,” said Beacon College senior Athena Kelley who found her place getting involved in student clubs during the pandemic. Kelley is the president of the Gay Straight Alliance, a club that became re-energized during the pandemic with growing numbers and new leadership.

Beacon also stands out because “there’s just a different level of passion,” she said.

For many students, coming to Beacon is the first time they fit in and find their community after struggling during their K-12 education. College is when they have finally found acceptance and people who can relate to them, Diebold said.

Indeed, Jameson “Jamie” Gaddy found his tribe when he joined the Video Game Club, which boasts about 70 members and creates “a ‘video game heaven’ on campus for those who like to relax and game on,” he said. “Beacon just loves video games and I like them too. I’m happy [about] how stuff is going on with the club. Got many exciting things coming next semester.”


Student Involvement


of students are involved in at least one club


student enrollment


student led clubs

The Draw of Club Membership

And thanks to acceptance and common interest, clubs skyrocket on students’ priority list.

Their mindset is, as Diebold explained, is “I will not miss a club meeting. I will run for leadership. I will be at these events, I will contribute,” she said. “There is such a deep, profound sense of proudness when it comes to student organizations and being able to take ownership over them.”

Kelley, 22, of St. Louis, Missouri, is the president of the Gay Straight Alliance, a club that became re-energized during the pandemic with growing numbers and new leadership. About 20 students attend GSA regularly.

During some meetings, they played Pictionary or made their own stress balls. They decorated pronoun pins and created rainbow flags. Club members helped each other when students were going home over break to unsupportive families.

“It’s a mix of work and play,” Kelley said about the club’s mission.

Even when they wore masks because some members were immunocompromised, they still met in person in 2021, Kelley said.

They built community and had engaging conversations, “discussions that would have been a lot more difficult to have on Zoom, frankly,” Kelley said.

The club excelled in 2021 and onward. Kelley gained new leadership skills and the confidence to tackle the group’s most successful clothing drive yet.

Last year GSA collected two carloads worth of donated clothes to give to Out of the Closet, a thrift store in Orlando that raises money for AIDS services. Kelley’s clothes drive brought in $1,200 worth of items from students and faculty.

If student clubs had weakened during the pandemic, Kelley doubts the 2023 clothes drive would have been such a smashing success.

“We were able to get amazing involvement from all levels of Beacon’s community,” said Kelley, a humanities major who graduates this year and plans to go to graduate school next in her pursuit of becoming a professor.

Keep your eyes open for clothing drop-off boxes going up around campus at the library, the student center and elsewhere on campus as GSA launches its clothes drive again this month.

Post-pandemic clubbing

Thanks to Beacon’s clubs holding steady through the pandemic, the foundation remained for new clubs to spring up.

Two years ago, the curtain raised on the Theatre Club, launched to provide students an opportunity to perform and explore theater. Today, 25 members meet on Wednesdays for 90 minutes to get their thespian on.

“Students are drawn to Theatre Club because of the how creative the club can be,” said club president Calinda Strayhorn. “These students are writing their own shows, making their own lighting plans, creating their own props and costumes, and creating everything themselves. Theatre club allows for creativity to explode to whatever the students desire it to be.”



That same year, a handful of students came together and planted the seeds for what became the Dungeons & Dragons Club. This semester, the club, which gathers to play the tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons — which helps build problem-solving and teamwork skills — counted 30 members on its roster.

“I believe students are attracted to the club because playing the game is a breath of fresh air,” said club president Chiara Ferrante. “It’s a break from the monotony and stress of classes, and with D&D you get to escape and be whoever you want to be; you can fight monsters and use magic and save the day. I think it’s a really great time for everyone who gets involved, and we have faculty and staff who express interest as well.”

Learn more about Student Activities and Organizations

Activities and Clubs