VIU Eco Club table at the Club Fair

Jeremy Stacey (far left) and Emma Simard-Provençal (left) at the VIU Eco Club table at the VIUSU Club Fair / Image via VIU Eco Club

It’s 2022. Time to tick off those New Year’s Resolutions.

There are the common yet difficult examples of “exercise more” and “travel,” then there are the equally common and difficult “make friends” and “try new things.” Introverts or students from out of town may find the latter particularly challenging. Thankfully, there’s a diverse source already available.  

Enter the student-led clubs at VIU.

There are currently 36 active clubs on campus: 22 general interest (open to any student), 12 course unions (restricted to a certain program), and 2 partisan/religious groups. Due to the pandemic, some of them have gone inactive or shut down completely, but there are many that have soldiered on.

One of these clubs is The Dungeons and Dragons Club, which has been active since 2018. According to His Holy High Father, Immaculate Grand Viceroy (aka President) Jordan Gregoire, the group is “quite imaginative and socially awkward.” 

The club gets together on Fridays at five in room 110 in building 250 to play tabletop role-playing games. They use various sites and apps, including Discord and the Dungeon & Dragons website D&D Beyond. Besides D&D, members also dabble in Star Wars Roleplaying and Dungeons: The Dragoning 40K. 

When the VIU campus shut down in spring 2020, the games went online and some campaigns ended. While Gregoire missed watching players’ reactions in person, the move was beneficial for members with high anxiety and those on the autism spectrum. Some campaigns are still being run online to accommodate them.

Another unexpected outcome was the switch to mainly using D&D Beyond, which has made keeping track of characters easier.

In-person meetings observe social distancing guidelines: breaking out into small groups, wearing masks, and using hand sanitizer. Gregoire hopes that campaigners can continue meeting in person. He also plans to hold some fundraisers, including a bake sale and a Dungeon Master (DM) training workshop by donation. Dungeon Masters run the campaigns, and since there are six people per group, there is currently a limited number.

Students who’d like to join the Club can either send an email to dungeonsdragons.club@viusu.ca or use the VIU Students’ Union (VIUSU) app. The Club is also open to non-VIUSU members, including alumni, staff, and faculty. However, VIU clubs need to be made up of mostly students, as per Students’ Union rules.

Before starting a campaign, players do a session zero to get to know each other and gauge their comfort levels, since the game can be violent. Gregoire describes Dungeons & Dragons as a “game of imagination, but played respectfully.”

He encourages students who are lonely or have moved to VIU Student Residences to join. “The people that tend to play Dungeons & Dragons are some of the least judgmental, most open people that you’ll meet,” he said. “All walks of life come here, and everybody’s always accepted with open arms.”

Another club with strong roots in the VIU community is the Eco Club. It was founded by Chair Emma Simard-Provençal and Vice-Chair Jeremy Stacey in January 2019 and is currently looking for new executives. 

The club’s goal is twofold: bringing awareness to environmental issues and providing opportunities for hands-on action. Club activities include organizing and attending protests, litter pickups, and recreating the rare Garry Oak Ecosystem behind Building 370, which is an ongoing project. 

The pandemic didn’t stop business for the Eco Club, since a lot of its activities are outdoor-based. Nature walks were divided into smaller groups and movie screenings were moved over to Zoom, although some activities were postponed entirely.

Simard-Provençal hopes to have more in-person activities and restart events like tours to landfills and in-person movie screenings. She also plans on organizing a tour of an Earthship, which she described as a “sustainable house” made from reclaimed and recycled materials. “We’ve got a lot of awesome stuff planned for this year,” she said. 

Students can join through the club’s Instagram or Facebook, or by sending an email to eco.club@viusu.ca. “There’s zero commitment to join,” Simard-Provençal said. “You can just come to whatever you can come to, and it’s a really great environment for meeting like-minded people.” 

Simard-Provençal and Stacey also run the Community Peace Garden Club. The Peace Garden is located on the north side of the VIU library on the Nanaimo campus. There, members grow food and plants native to BC, helping the environment and the community. For students with green thumbs, this is the place to go.

* * *

Because of some dedicated effort from VIUSU and students, some new clubs have also started up this year. 

One of them is the Mahjong Club. The main goal is to teach people how to play Mahjong and to bring people with a passion for it together. The tile-based strategy game was developed in 19th-century China and has Chinese, Japanese, and American versions. Despite its relative popularity, it’s not commonly played in English-speaking countries. 

The club was ratified in late October and is still in its early days. Founder and President Tyler Patton has been busy buying game sets and putting together simple English-language resources for new players, including a website. 

Patton is reaching out to VIU Student Residence, and also wants to get in touch with the Japanese and Chinese Language Programs. In the future, he hopes to get involved with the larger North American Mahjong-playing community, enter tournaments, and interact with players on an international level. To join, students can email him at mahjong.club@viusu.ca.

The Ski and Snowboard Club, founded by President Branden Howe, also started last year. The members haven’t met yet, but they hope to go to Mount Washington in the spring semester. Howe plans to have two groups: advanced members on the more difficult terrain and beginner members together on easier runs. 

Interested students can join by emailing ski.club@viusu.ca or through the club’s Instagram. The only requirement is some experience with either sport. While being vaccinated isn’t needed to join the club, it is necessary in order to access restaurants and some of the lodges. 

Finally, the CREW (Creative Writing and Journalism) Club was active pre-COVID-19, but shut down due to the pandemic. CREW student Ben Weick hopes to revive it this semester. He is in his third year at VIU, and the retiring High Treasurer (Treasurer) of the D&D Club. He thinks the CREW Club would be a great legacy to leave behind. 

Weick hopes to have weekly or biweekly workshopping groups and, if there is interest, run contests and invite speakers. The club would provide new and returning students with the networking and publishing opportunities that he wished he’d had earlier in his program. 

While some membership outside the program would be considered, the club is mainly limited to CREW members. Right now, though, Weick’s focus is on getting the start date finalized, with the first meeting sometime in January. 

VIUSU has plenty of resources for beginning a new course union or club. To begin, students need to fill out a request form with the club’s proposed name and description. The Director of Internal Relations, Claire Stewart, will send further instructions. The form can be found, along with other handbooks and tutorials, on the Club Admin page

The Students’ Union is holding a referendum March 1st to 3rd, 2022, to vote on creating a VIUSU Grants Fund. This would involve an increase to the VIUSU student fee of $1.75 per month that would go towards club activities.

Under the current system, clubs have a set budget that can be increased through fundraising, which the Student Union matches. However, the Grants Fund would provide additional funding allowing for more flexibility in activities and opportunity for new clubs to be created.  

Joining one of the clubs mentioned—or the many others—can offer students a chance to make new connections and have new experiences.

To see a full list of VIU clubs and course unions, download the VIUSU app. An abbreviated list can be found on the VIUSU website.

Editor

Sophia Wasylinko is a third-year Creative Writing and Journalism student. She was the Entertainment Reporter for CHLY 101.7FM in winter 2020. Her favorite things in life are cats, the color purple, coffee, and books (mysteries or books about ghosts, murder, and crime in general). Sophia is excited to be back in Nanaimo and hopes to explore more of Vancouver Island this year.

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