Student Union packed for Wildcat Winter Expo

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Samuel Becker, senior in anthropology, and Morgan Hammes, senior in psychology, talk with Gabby Fargone, sophomore in dietetics, at the Dunkin' Donuts Winter Expo in the K-State Student Union on Jan. 19, 2017. (Maddie Domnick | The Collegian)

The Kansas State Student Union was filled with students Thursday night as the Union Program Council and Office of Student Activities and Services hosted the annual Wildcat Winter Expo showcasing the university’s clubs and organizations.

This year, the theme of the activity fair was “Dunkin’ on a New Semester,” and members of UPC distributed free hot chocolate and doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts to attendees.

About 160 student clubs and organizations lined the halls, courtyard and ballroom of the Union, Bill Harlan, director of the Office of Student Activities and Services, said.

The Winter Expo allows organizations an opportunity to advertise themselves to a diverse range of students.

“When you join a club, it gives you a place between home and school that you can relax in,” Siba Khojah, junior in political science and UPC community co-chair, said. “Freshmen want a place to call home, so the Union Program Council offers this activity fair to give students the chance to join these organizations.”

Adam Carr, sophomore in human resources and vice president of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, said the activity fair not only helps to recruit students, it also spreads awareness of the group’s mission.

“I like to think that we can reach all students,” Carr said. “(The Sexuality and Gender Alliance) provides a location for queer students to be comfortable and being at the activity fair lets them know that we are here on campus, even if they don’t use our services. Sometimes, knowing that a function is there is mental security enough, and it helps students come to campus feeling secure about themselves.”

Macy Pennington, sophomore in psychology and member of women’s singing group Audacity, said she first found Audacity at an activity fair as a freshman.

“Last year, I came in as a freshman with not a lot of friends and not a lot of activities, and Audacity really gave me the chance to meet some really close friends that I’ll have for years to come,” Pennington said. “I first heard about the group at the activity fair, so I signed up to recruit people today because I know how much I appreciated that as a freshman.”

In recent semesters, the Winter Expo was limited in space due to remodeling of the building, and both UPC and the Office of Student Activities and Services had to turn away organizations who wanted to showcase at the expo. With the Union mostly open this semester, the activity fair was able to host more organizations, Harlan said.

“There’s more space that’s open in the Union now, so we raised our cap,” Harlan said. “Last year, the first floor was closed, so we were limited in how many tables we could offer. We also struggled last year because there was a blizzard during the first week of school, so we had to postpone the activity fair a week back and some groups weren’t able to reschedule.”

This semester, Harlan said about 3,000 students were expected to attend the activity fair, including a good turnout of freshmen and transfer students.

“We hold two activity fairs per school year because we realize that there are new students that come through this semester, like students who transfer or are coming to college early,” Harlan said.

For some students, the fall semester gives them a much better idea of their time commitments and obligations, Harlan said.

“The other reason we started this winter activity fair, though, is because often students are so overwhelmed in their first semester as freshmen,” Harlan said. “They don’t know how much time they’ll have, they haven’t picked their major yet or they’re changing majors. We hope that this is a good opportunity for students to get more accustomed to what K-State’s like and get an understanding of how much time they have to get involved with student organizations.”

Lauren Payne, freshman in sociology, said she wanted to see the clubs and organizations that she might have missed during the fall.

“I wasn’t able to make it to the activities fair last semester, but now that I have my schedule more figured out, I can make more time for clubs,” Payne said.

Harlan said he hoped the activity fair helped students find a home at K-State.

“We put a lot of value on student activities and organizations because we think it’s a good opportunity for students to find other students, as well as faculty and staff that have shared interests or values,” Harlan said. “Sometimes, K-State can seem like a really big place, and it can be hard to find a group of people you want to be around. At the activity fair, you can find that group of people that you can make connections with.”

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I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at news@kstatecollegian.com.