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Throngs Descend on Kaufman Mall for Main Street, ODU's Student Organizations Fair

Jena Staffon wanted to go out of state for school. The 18-year-old from Reno, Nev., was attracted by this region's weather, and the beach.

But the Old Dominion University freshman arrived in Hampton Roads just in time … for Hurricane Irene.

Surviving her first-ever hurricane just days after arriving in Norfolk, Staffon faced a storm of another kind on Thursday. Main Street, Old Dominion's one-day recruitment bonanza for the university's student organizations, had her head spinning.

"It's a little overwhelming," the general studies major said. "There's so many clubs and organizations. It really helps me feel like a part of something."

Staffon happily joined the Monarch Maniacs student booster group, and stopped by "sorority row" and the SPCA Club table.

With 230 different student organizations advertising their memberships, there really was something for everyone. Besides traditional organizations like the Student Government Association, and clubs for every academic discipline, more niche-marketed groups offered such activities as karate and belly dancing, and lured curious passers-by.

Main Street has grown considerably in the past few years, said Nicole Zelazny, coordinator for activities in ODU's Office of Student Activities and Leadership, as she looked out on the throng of students who turned out for the event.

"Today's also about building a sense of community," Zelazny said. "Students have just arrived here, it's their first week. Joining a student organization is one of the fun parts of the college experience. It provides learning opportunities outside the classroom - a chance to develop practical skills and just to make friends."

Every table had its interested visitors, including groups representing nontraditional activities, such as the Philosophy Club. However, club member Maxwell Schrumpf, a senior from Virginia Beach, said the club has a broader membership than you might think.

"We have engineers, science majors. It's our second semester bringing the club back to campus. It was dormant for a decade before that," Schrumpf said. "There are professors who come to our events, and it's great to have an opportunity to discuss issues with them outside of class, to develop a better relationship."

Speaking of faculty members, precious few were spotted navigating the busy sidewalks on Kaufman Mall during Main Street, as DJs blared hip-hop music and students lined up for pizza and snow cones. In a way, that's reflective of how this event has evolved into a student initiative, with these clubs being directed and led by students on campus.

Stacie Raymer, professor of communication disorders and special education, was among the faculty members who attended Main Street, as faculty adviser for the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association.

"It's huge. I'm shocked at how much this event has grown," Raymer said. "And it's nice to see students coming to all of the different tables. We've received a lot of interest."

This article was posted on: September 1, 2011

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