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sac-fair-2018-student-activities-council
Typically, hundreds of student organizations table on Locust Walk during the Student Activities Council's Fall Activities Fair. Credit: Sam Holland

Instead of a packed Locust Walk with hundreds of tables lining the perimeter and upperclassmen enthusiastically yelling and throwing flyers at first years, this year, the Student Activities Council's Fall Activities Fair will take place on a web platform designed by Penn students.

Clubs overseen by SAC, which funds over 230 student groups, will use the platform Penn Clubs while those overseen by The Wharton Council, which funds over 40 student groups in The Wharton School, will use Campus Groups to recruit new members and host group meetings over Zoom. The SAC Fall Activities Fair will take place Sept. 1 through Sept. 3, and The Wharton Council's club fair will be on Sept. 4 and Sept 5. 

Penn President Amy Gutmann announced in an email to all undergraduate students on Aug. 11 that Penn is no longer inviting students back to campus, and there will be no in-person activities on campus this fall.

Penn Labs is currently updating its website, Penn Clubs, to hold Zoom information sessions for prospective new members to meet club leaders for the SAC Fall Activities Fair, rising Engineering senior and co-lead of the Penn Clubs project Selina Nie said. Because students will be joining information sessions from across the world and many different time zones, Nie added Penn Clubs will also have a chat feature for students to ask questions to club leaders asynchronously.

“We've tried to develop Penn Clubs as an alternative to walking down Locust and seeing all the tables for student groups,” rising College junior and SAC Chair Grayson Peters said.

Launched last fall, Penn Clubs replaced Groups Online at Penn as an updated database of student groups on campus, Nie said.

A team of eight Penn Labs students has worked this summer to adapt the website for a completely virtual student club experience this fall. Nie said Penn Labs decided to incorporate Zoom into the website's features now that students have access to Zoom Pro accounts, according to an Aug. 14 email from Provost Wendell Pritchett.

Zoom Pro accounts allow for sessions with up to 100 participants and a duration of 24 hours.

"It was kind of pre-COVID that the platform was created, but with things going online, there's a lot more opportunities for us to fill in the gaps for things that would have been in person," Nie said.

Rising Wharton and Engineering senior and co-lead of the Penn Clubs project Eric Wang said the website will be updated with accurate information about clubs that registered for the 2020-2021 school year by Aug. 24.

Another group of eight Penn students has also created a platform called Virtual Event, which will be used in junction with Campus Groups for The Wharton Council club fair. Rising Engineering senior Vraj Shroff, who worked on the project, said Virtual Event will allow students to wait in a queue and meet one-on-one with club leaders in a video chat during the club fair. 

Virtual Event's one-on-one chat function will be linked from the Campus Groups platform and take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST on Sept. 4 and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST on Sept. 5, Director of Student Life at Wharton Lee Kramer wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“In an actual activities fair that would be in person, you would have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with the club executives, and if you're in a Zoom call with hundreds of students, you can't have that,” rising Engineering junior and team member of the Virtual Event project Julie Lee said.

Rising Engineering sophomore Sara Strenger, who led the development and coding of the site, said the site will allow users to search for club events and see all the club events they have signed up for. The site will also link to each club’s individual page for more information.

“Things are where you’d expect them to be,” Strenger said. “We don’t want people to have to learn something new.”

Strenger added the idea of Virtual Event came after Shroff developed a similar web platform called Virtual Hour that some teaching assistants at Penn and peer schools used to hold office hours.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that The Wharton Council's club fair will take place on the Virtual Event platform, while in fact it will be on the Campus Groups platform which will link to Virtual Event. The DP regrets this error. 

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