Sign Up and Smell the Coffee!: A Look at Club Recruitment Processes

by The Cowl Editor on February 27, 2020


by Sienna Strickland ’22

News Staff

Last week the Board of Programmers (BOP) held their spring semester coffeehouse to give incoming applicants a taste of what the club is like. 

Kevin Schwalm ‘21, BOP’s next president, sat down to share some information about the annual tradition practiced by many of the big clubs on campus. “The coffeehouse and open meeting are held before the application and interview process begins. This allows students interested in the club to learn more about what the club does for the campus. This year, the coffeehouse was held on Tuesday, February 18 and an open meeting was held during our regularly scheduled meetings on Wednesday, February 19,” Schwalm shares.

Student Congress also holds annual coffeehouse events during application season. Kelsey Christianson ’20 recommends that any students interested in improving campus life check out the informational session.

“Students that are interested in joining should come, as well as those interested in hearing more about the concrete things that Student Congress does on campus to make everyone’s experience better,” Christianson says.

Schwalm also encourages incoming applicants to attend the BOP coffeehouse to learn more about the club and to mingle, both with the board members and amongst themselves. He describes the average coffeehouse scene for the applicant, saying, “At the coffeehouse, the whole board is in attendance and we all talk and answer questions to anyone interested in learning more about the organization. We also have a brief slideshow that talks about the roles of each person on the board.”

He continued, saying, “Each committee chair has a slide and they discuss what their committee does as well as highlight some of the events they have done since the beginning of the school year. We also have applications available for anyone who is interested, and we discuss the timeline of the application process.”

In other words, despite the title, much more than mere coffee-sipping happens at coffeehouse events. They are  informative and interactive. The other event held by BOP during application season, usually following shortly after the coffeehouse, is the open meeting. 

These give a real-life look at what life as a member is like, offering the student a chance to dive right into the experience as a voyeur, and at times, participate in the meeting.

“At the open meetings, we allow anyone interested to see what a typical Board of Programmers meeting is like. The Board goes through a typical meeting as if it were a normal Wednesday. At this year’s meeting, one of the events we discussed was the Black and White Ball and it was great to hear what the people who attended the open meeting thought about the event. We also listened to their feedback on all the other events talked about at the meeting. After, members of the board were available to talk with any applicants who had questions about the application or about the process,” Schwalm says.

These events are typically very popular, as many are often vying to get at least a look into the popular on-campus organization.

“We had approximately 170 people attend the coffeehouse and 65 attend the open meeting. Typically, most people who attend the coffeehouse apply and most people who attend the open meeting also apply,” he says.

What happens, however, if one cannot attend? Will they be severely missing out or penalized during the application process?

Students who forget about, do not have the time to attend, or decide to apply after these events can collectively release a pent-up breath. Although these events provide students with great networking and informational opportunities, the rumors whispered about them being necessary or significant enough to merit acceptance into the club are not true.

Christianson addresses this common concern, conceding that although it looks good, there is no preferential treatment given to attendees.

“The attendance at the coffeehouse does not have much of an impact on the student’s chance of getting on the club. It does show, however, that the student does have a piqued interest in the club and is actively looking into it. The student, however, still must interview or run an election like everyone else,” she says.

Schwalm contributes, describing how much weight these events really hold to the BOP exec board.

“We look at every applicant equally. We understand that it can be difficult for students with busy schedules to attend one or both of the events. The coffeehouse and open meeting are not officially part of the application process, but function more as a way for students to learn about what we do as a club and to see if they are interested in applying,” he says.

In other words, while important and recommended, it is certainly not a requirement to sip coffee or sit in on the exec board.

This does not mean those interested in applying should not try to obtain the information shared at these events. For the students who are unable to make it, there are alternative options.

Christianson talks about some of these methods for students looking to join Student Congress.

“If students cannot attend the coffeehouse, we have our general meetings every Tuesday at 5:30 Ruane LL05. Here, the student can listen to an active meeting and see what actually goes on. Also, our elected class members and committees put on events throughout the year that students can attend to see the event planning side that Congress takes on. We also have a Food Committee, run under our Student Life Committee, that meets with the head chef of Ray monthly, and any students can join to have their voice heard about the dining on campus,” she says.

In regards to BOP, Schwalm assures that the office door is always open for students with any questions.

“If students are unable to attend the coffeehouse, or have questions regarding the application process or application itself, we welcome them to come in the office and have a discussion with someone on the board who can give them more information. There is always someone in the office during the day, and they would love to chat with anyone about the club,” he says.

Both the BOP and Student Congress offices are located in lower Slavin. BOP applications are due Friday, February 27, and the Student Congress application season begins again this fall.

Coffee houses are an effective tool used by clubs to promote themselves.
photo courtesy of