Lee Pellegrini

The annual Boston College Student Involvement Fair – when more than 250 BC student organizations, offices and programs set up shop to introduce themselves and make their pitch for new members – transforms Stokes Lawn into a bustling, exuberant mass of humanity, as thousands of students and other visitors browse the rows of tables hosted by organization and club representatives.

The fair offers an up-close study of strategies and tactics to promote and engage: offer snacks; stand on a chair holding a sign; play music (recorded, or by live musicians if possible); give live demonstrations of the club activity—or, if necessary, assume the identity of a large carrot.

Student Involvement Fair 2017
Rachel Newhall and Priya Atiyeh, students repping the veggie enthusiasts at BC's Office of Health Promotion. (Yiting Chen)

Sometimes, however, you just have to stand in the middle of the crowd and hawk your wares, like “JP,” a Carroll School of Management senior and member of the dance ensemble BC Swing Kids, who urged passersby to stop at the club’s table: “Do you want to have a good time? Learn to swing!”

Not everyone, of course, accepted the invitation.

“People will say, ‘Oh, I can’t dance,’ and they’re kind of shocked that someone wants them to join,” he said. 

And that’s when JP gives the kicker. “I tell them, ‘Hey, I didn’t know how to swing dance when I came here, either.’ That’s the thing about the Swing Kids – no experience needed; you just have a good time.”

Student Involvement Fair 2017
Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences senior Chloe Fasanmi of BC's Voices of Imani: 'We tell people we just want them to give it a try. You sing, you dance, you make friends.' (Yiting Chen)

Seniors Chloe Fasanmi and Nikki Gold encountered their share of reluctance while promoting the gospel choir Voices of Imani.

“‘Oh, I can’t sing,’” said Fasanmi, repeating an often-heard remark. “We tell them we just want people to come give it a try. You sing, you dance, you laugh, you make friends.”

“Even if someone doesn’t sign up, you say, ‘Well, come to our concert,’” added Gold. “And maybe that person sees we’re performing sometime and says, ‘Oh yeah, they were really nice. I should go check it out.’ You just want them to know about you.”

Student Involvement Fair 2017
Morrissey College students Aleks Pasciak, Emma Yates, Michaela Simoneau, and Amanda Sackmaster of On Tap. (Yiting Chen)

Elsewhere on Stokes Lawn, one member of Improv Comedy and Theater tried to press a leaflet on an acquaintance (“I’ve signed up for too much already,” he told her, apologetically). “Yeah, you hear that a lot,” she said, “but the big one is ‘Oh, I’ve already got a leaflet.’ No, you don’t!”

For some organizations, their pitch relates more to students’ academic and professional interests, as noted Eleanor Brown ’19 of the Public Health Club. “What turns their eye is when they see we’re about pre-med, internships, interdisciplinary research. I don’t know the statistics, but it seems like there are an incredible amount of students here who are pre-med, or are interested in similar kinds of fields. We also get a lot of communication majors. These are people who are thinking ahead about what they might do down the road.” 

Student Involvement Fair 2017
Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Kyle Wiant shows off his skills at the Boston College Crew table. (Lee Pellegrini)

Caroline Merritt ’18 of Sketch Comedy said humor isn’t just her club’s stock-in-trade, it’s a means of recruitment.

“My favorite thing is to go up behind someone, tap them on the shoulder, say ‘Excuse me, you dropped this,’ and then hand them one of our flyers – they sort of feel obliged to take it,” she said. “Or you just shout random stuff to attract attention: ‘Save Seaworld!’ or ‘Potluck dinner!’”

“Or ‘Wanna watch me fight her?’” joked one of Merritt’s colleagues.

When Merritt hears the “But I’m not funny” response, she has a ready comeback: “Me, neither. So sign up!”

But Merritt said that the Student Involvement Fair also is about being social. “If you run into someone who’s not outgoing, you just talk to them about what we do, so they remember you – hopefully in a positive way. You want to leave a lasting impression.” 

–Sean Smith  | University Communications

Student Involvement Fair 2017
Carroll School of Management junior Kevin Huang, at left, Morrissey College of Arts and Science students Ashish Gurung and Bao Dinh of the group Conspiracy Theory. (Lee Pellegrini)