Conferences are the key to re-sparking a love for clubs

Clubs are in their revitalization era

Kate believes there is a generation of students who’ve lost their connection to clubs.
Photo by Curtis Heinzl

Clubs are in their era of revitalization.

Throughout the past several months, clubs across campus have been working tirelessly to reignite student engagement. Despite most clubs resuming in-person activities during the fall of 2022, many are unfortunately not seeing the return of pre-pandemic levels of participation.

It's evident clubs are still working to recover from the adverse effects COVID-19 had on student engagement. The current generation of students seems to have forgotten the value of clubs or perhaps never experienced it first-hand. 

There's something genuinely special about being involved in a club or extracurricular, and big in-person events are the key to re-establishing their value with students. Not only does engaging in these activities give you a much-needed break from school and connect you with like-minded individuals, but they also provide opportunities that are formative for your future. 

For example, Queen’s Model Parliament (QMP) is a club where students interested in politics can work with a group to develop satirical or serious bills which they debate in the House of Commons. In January 2023, QMP hosted its first in-person conference in Ottawa since before COVID-19. 

In a typical year pre-COVID-19, hundreds of people attended the QMP conference. It was one of the most highly anticipated conferences among the student body. When COVID-19 hit and everything moved online, like many other clubs, QMP saw a sharp decrease in its members. During the 2020-21 school year, club enrolment was around 45 people. Now that the club is operating in-person once again, these numbers have doubled.

QMP gives members the opportunity to improve their public-speaking skills in a supportive and engaging environment. The fact the club revolves almost entirely around members being silly makes it perfect for people looking for a light-hearted and low-commitment activity. 

Having clubs like QMP that host conferences or other in-person events gives students the chance to immerse themselves in new experiences and make memories that will last a lifetime. Similarly, when students are involved in a club that hosts or attends conferences outside of Kingston, members are given the unique opportunity to explore a new place with their peers. 

Attending a conference with your peers helps build a sense of social cohesion. In a classroom setting, it can be hard to feel connected to a community, especially in first year when you have lectures with hundreds of people. 

Furthermore, attending conferences allows individuals the opportunity to network with people they may not have otherwise ever met. Especially as an upper-year student, establishing network connections can be vital for your future job search.

Be it in Ottawa with QMP or elsewhere, conferences are often the highlight of students’ undergraduate experience. To revitalize club engagements, new and existing students need to see more conferences or events and work to make them happen. 

It can be intimidating to venture outside your comfort zone, but the joy you can receive from joining a club makes it well worth it. Clubs must continue to make themselves known through events like conferences to remind students there is at least one club out there that suits their interest. 

Having open communication with upper-year students or executive members in the club can give disconnected students the courage to try it for themselves—sometimes hearing someone else’s excitement and seeing their positive experience at a conference is all you need. 

University is all about trying new things and meeting new people, which is why we must collectively continue to re-foster student engagement with clubs. 

With the steady rate in which people are getting involved this year, and with some encouragement, clubs will once again see the high levels of involvement that they used to in the next few years. We aren’t there yet, though.

Clubs must continue to plan memorable conferences, utilize social media marketing, and promote recruitment at in-person events like Queen’s in the Park or the Clubs Fair.

When you look back on your university experience, you won’t remember the everyday stresses of being a student like running from class to class or staying up late to finish a reading. You’ll remember your extracurriculars and friends you made through them. 

Revitalizing this passion for clubs is worth fighting for.


Kate is a fourth-year Political Studies and Psychology student.

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