Student organizations play a crucial role in the DePaul experience for many undergraduate and graduate students. Take a look at some of the many groups on campus.
By Jacob Sabolo (LAS ’12)
Photos by Tom Evans
In the Schmitt Academic Center on the Lincoln Park Campus, across from the social gathering and study area known as “The Pit,” several large bulletin boards hang on the east wall. Between September and June, they’re covered with flyers of all sizes and colors: baby pinks and electric blues, oranges and violets, apple greens and canary yellows, and some are simply black and white. A few of them advertise math tutors, beginner’s guitar lessons, on-campus jobs and study abroad programs. Others announce upcoming guest lectures, Theatre School productions and academic conferences. The majority of them, however, are posted by student organizations to promote weekly meetings, service opportunities and events they’re hosting. In a sense, the wall of flyers is an open invitation for student to get involved with the university community.
The first DePaulian, the university’s now out-of-print yearbook, featured some 20 student organizations, most of which were fraternities and sororities. That was in 1924. Today, DePaul has more than 350 student groups dedicated to recreational sports, professional development, academics, the arts, community service, technology and more. Despite the broad range of student groups, they all share the same purpose: bringing students together to share their ideas, interests and values, while also giving them the opportunity to serve communities and make lifelong friends.
Since its establishment in 2006, Act Out has become one the leading LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other identities) student groups at DePaul. Members meet regularly to discuss current issues in the LGBTQIA+ community and plan volunteer and activism opportunities in Chicago. “It’s always immeasurably rewarding to see or even hear how our work can affect an individual, says Rutherford Manion, former president of Act Out. “It reinforces my belief that we can create real change, even if it’s one heart at a time.” Aside from holding weekly meetings, Act Out regularly hosts workshops and drag shows throughout the academic year. Members have also attended the Midwestern Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, an annual event that connects, educates and empowers LGBTQIA+ college students, faculty and staff. “You come out of it knowing something new about yourself and the world around you,” says Connor O’Keefe, president of Act Out. “I’m glad I get to help others have that experience.”
Black Student Union
Established in the 1960s, the Black Student Union (BSU) fosters empowerment and unity among students of African descent and provides an outlet for members to voice their opinions and implement positive change. “There’s nothing quite like the solace of being around people you know will be able to understand your unique experience as a black student,” says Kendall Sprinkle, president of BSU. Sprinkle recently helped organize a trip to Memphis, Tenn., for Black History Month, the first trip she took with the BSU. The organization also hosts an annual fashion show that showcases local designers in the community. “The best part of the BSU is the people—that’s who keeps you motivated to improve the organization and the campus,” she says.
Chicago Food Recycle
As part of DePaul’s Community Service Association (members pictured above), Chicago Food Recycle allows students to volunteer weekly at Su Casa, a Catholic Worker home for displaced Latino families located in the South Side Back of the Yards neighborhood. Students cook and prepare meals for families and join them at the table for dinner. “I’ve had the privilege to work alongside amazing people and have gotten to foster a growing relationship with our community partners,” says Shelby Klingberg, president of Chicago Food Recycle. She recalls throwing a party for a woman living at Su Casa, and family and friends celebrating with them. When meals are already prepared for the day, Klingberg enjoys interacting with children at Su Casa. “One day I decided to bring Twister. The kids had never seen the game before, and they absolutely loved it.”
DePaul Improv and Sketch Comedy
Comprising 30 members divided into four teams, DePaul Improv and Sketch Comedy (DISC) is the largest comedy group at DePaul. “Our focus is on inclusivity, teaching and providing experience for our members,” says Alejandra Domeier (CMN ’17), a former DISC member. “When we hold auditions, we aren’t looking for the funniest person or the person with the most experience or anyone with a particular look. We’re looking for ambitious people who can work in a team and who are willing to learn.” Every June, members participate in the Del Close Marathon in New York, a three-day improv festival named after the Chicago pioneer of longform improv. “For the whole weekend, a group of us will share hotel rooms, bounce around the city and spend hours watching improv sets. It’s a fantastic bonding trip,” she says.
A relatively new student organization, DePaul Pokédemons helps Pokédemons explore Chicago while playing “Pokémon GO,” a location-based augmented-reality game that uses play on their smartphones. The organization also collaborates regularly with a local Pokémon League, which hosts tournaments and events for kids in the community. “After our meetings, most of the members of Pokédemons head over to the Pokémon League to help kids build card decks and teach them how to play the game,” says Matthew Verive, former president and current chancellor of Pokédemons. The organization is also planning a video game marathon, similar to DemonTHON’s 24-hour dance marathon, to raise funds for Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
S.T.R.O.N.G. (Sisters Together Recognizing Our Never-ending Growth) supports the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional growth of African-American women on campus. “We have managed to create a space where black women are able to rejoice, connect and share our experiences, as well as provide access to on- and off-campus resources that a lot of students are unaware of,” says Raven Jackson, president of S.T.R.O.N.G. The organization regularly organizes Get Flirty with S.T.R.O.N.G., a series of exercise classes at Flirty Girl Fitness, a women’s gym in Lincoln Park. A key component of the organization is serving Chicago communities. “The most fun I’ve had as a member is through our different service opportunities where we are able to work together,” she says. During Vincentian Service Day 2016, the organization volunteered at Rincon Family Services, a medical clinic, and helped to clean the facility.
Urban Farming Organization
Launched with the goal of educating the DePaul community about sustainable food systems, the Urban Farming Organization (UFO) engages in urban agriculture through hands-on, service-based experience. Members and nonmembers regularly volunteer at UFO’s community garden, located on the corner of Belden Avenue and Bissell Street on the Lincoln Park Campus, where they plant and harvest flowers, herbs and vegetables. They also sell some of their produce at the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center, as well as host an annual candle-making class. During the winter months, UFO helps maintain the greenhouse on the roof of the Monsignor Andrew J. McGowan Environmental Science and Chemistry Building. “I always find it enjoyable to be around like-minded students who really care about today’s social issues, including health and hunger,” says Allie Klawitter, treasure of UFO. “At the end of the day, I can feel good about my own carbon footprint and impact on the environment.”
Originally intended as an opportunity for longform writers to receive feedback, the Writer’s Block provides a safe space for writers of all genres to create, edit and share their work. “It’s an excellent community,” says Lauren Walter, an executive board member. “We help each other develop as writers, whether through reviewing academic essays, discussing character development or recommending edits. I’m glad I have the Writer’s block to make writing a little more social and a little less intimidating.” Members have taken trips to Chicago museum, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, for inspiration and have hosted a series of write-ins during National Novel Writing Month in November. “I don’t think I’d still be writing if I didn’t this support network,” says Reuben Diaz, president of the Writer’s Block. “The feedback I have gotten so far has always been helpful and encouraging.”