Alcalá Bazaar Day 1: Virtual Opportunities Abound

Alcalá Bazaar Day 1: Virtual Opportunities Abound

It’s known as the event for students new and returning to find out what’s happening at the University of San Diego and what’s available to get involved with during their college life. The Alcalá Bazaar is the must-see, must-attend event at the start of each semester, particularly in the fall when the academic year begins.

In 2020, a year unique as they come with a coronavirus pandemic forcing students to take classes, have office hours and deliver all presentations virtually, if there was one event that could rise above everything, the Alcalá Bazaar is it.

In a spin of uniqueness, the Associated Student Government and Student Activities and Involvement co-hosts turned this usually two-hour, one-day event into a more manageable and deeper engaging two days, Tuesday, Aug. 25 and Thursday, Aug. 27, from 12 to 2 p.m. on Zoom.

There are seven main categories — academic, fraternities and sororities, sports, changemaking, special interest, multicultural and spiritual — with multiple breakout rooms to showcase the more than 150 clubs, organizations, programs and activities available to the USD student population. Tuesday’s event only featured academic, fraternities/sororities and sports; Thursday will feature the remaining four.

Form a Bond: Sororities and Fraternities

“It’s really important to know that we’re still here for each other,” says Thalia Luna, vice president for recruitment programming with the USD Panhellenic Executive Board, despite the virtual distance. “It’s a sisterhood.”

Luna and Panhellenic vice president of communications, Madolyn Dolce, who co-hosted their breakout room on Tuesday, are members of a board that oversees council operations and helps coordinate sorority activities each year for USD’s seven chapters tied to national organizations.

If the Panhellenic Council for sororities and USD’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) for the eight fraternities can stay together and form a strong bond as IFC President Brendan Burke said Tuesday despite a pandemic, that positive sentiment and action was echoed throughout all of the other breakout rooms visited on this first day.

Academically Speaking: Go Beyond the Classroom

EOSC: Lia Wong, co-president of the Environmental and Ocean Sciences Club, was live from Hawaii — a three-hour earlier time difference — and eager to inform anyone interested in learning more about what club members do. Despite the distance, virtual meetings will include guest speakers, including graduate students discussing their research, watching movies and documentaries that center on environmental issues and potentially, a beach clean-up activity that will enforce all proper health protocols when done. The hope, Wong said, is that whenever students can return to campus that field trips involving snorkeling, hiking and the Birch Aquarium will be possible.

Entrepreneurship Club: Andrew Davidson, president of the USD Entrepreneurship Club, was excited to share with drop-in viewers some of the many opportunities available to build and exercise their entrepreneurial skillset, including attendance at the Fowler Business Concept Challenge “all-you-need-to-know” event on Aug. 27, the USD Legacy Entrepreneurship Conference on Sept. 3, participation in club events with guest speakers and, ultimately, work toward the FBCC in late fall and onto spring events, the Venture Vetting (V2) Pitch Competition and Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge.

“The best part, I think, is to be with the other students and also the connections you make with certain people you might never have thought possible,” said Davidson, who has competed in V2. “It’s a tight community.”

Alcalá Club: The Alcalá Club is another strong community of students. They are a service organization of Toreros who work with USD’s President James T. Harris as official representatives of the university. Working at different USD-sponsored activities and functions, typically, these students are highly visible and valued on campus at major events. Due to the pandemic, the members haven’t been as visible, but in their Alcalá Bazaar breakout room, several indicated that their time away has been well-spent on USD’s behalf. Fundraising events, a connection to USD Votes and having a close-knit sense of purpose and pride in the group keeps them going.

“We’ve been able to make the most of (our time) and we look forward to serving our roles and being back on campus again,” Alcalá Club member Mary Catherine Smith ’21 said.

Campus Recreation: Stay Active, Competitive

The pandemic, with its social distance protocols and enforced remote learning, has made it very tough for Campus Recreation. Exercise programs are taught online, USD’s Dance Company recently held virtual dance tryouts and Campus Recreation Director Serena Gandara indicated some 10 clubs are currently active, including ultimate frisbee and golf.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Cirillo, supervisor of competitive sports for Campus Recreation, has been able to turn his attention from the slow intramural sports season he normally works to the budding popularity of Torero Gaming and E-Sports.

“It’s definitely gaining traction,” Cirillo said. So much so that he split things up this semester to offer a “casual gamer” section and one for competitive, league-official, gamers.

Franciscan School of Theology

And last, but not least, the Alcalá Bazaar was an opportunity for the Franciscan School of Theology, which only moved onto the USD campus in 2019, to reach prospective students interested in theological training and a master’s degree program path.

Christine Avella, associate director of admissions and recruitment, was in a breakout room. She expressed FST’s happiness moving onto the USD campus in 2019 following several years at its Oceanside location. She said the chance to make stronger connections and access to USD on-campus entities such as the Kroc School and the School of Leadership and Education Sciences has been a plus.

FST students can earn a master’s in theological studies, divinity or an MA in theology for those preparing to teach at a secondary level, a two-year college program or as a graduate research degree in preparation for a doctoral program. Avella said FST currently has just over 50 students enrolled and, due to the pandemic, all are currently learning remotely. Traditionally, all students have been taught in-person, but the need to go to remote learning has shown administrators that an online master’s degree in theological studies is in the planning stages beginning Fall 2021.

Who knows, perhaps an Alcalá Bazaar participant now is a future student and graduate, a sign that they found their passion by attending the event on campus.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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