By Liz Haas, Contributing Writer
Aerial dancers twirled above students’ heads last Tuesday as part of the University of New Hampshire’s University Day, or “U-Day,” festivities.
Students began crowding between the tables lining the sidewalks of Thompson Hall Lawn shortly before 3:30 p.m. to survey the over 300 student organizations, sports, clubs and other services offered at the university.
The area remained packed until after 6 p.m. when organizations began packing up. Main Street was blocked off from Edgewood Street to Garrison Avenue to accommodate thousands of free hot dogs, hamburgers and cans of Sunkist being served to students, faculty and community members by UNH Dining Services, while the dining halls were closed for dinner.
Sophomore Pat Watson thought that U-Day “shows UNH spirit” and is “good for everyone,” including members of the community and faculty who bring their young children to eat cotton candy and get balloon animal hats.
Freshman business major Stephanie Mastacouris attended U-Day to join three organizations and write a paper on the experience for her business administration class. She chose organizations that fit her interests in Greek life, travel and being a woman in business.
Not all students that day, however, came to sign up for a particular club.
“I just want to eat all the food!” sophomore Alex Fyffe said. “I go to tables I’m interested in and if there’s food I’ll stay longer.”
But the recruiting tactics at the Sigma Alpha table showed Fyffe that engagement by the student groups was key to drawing people in.
“Candy brings students to the table,” Fyfee said. “ Talking to them gets them interested and that is why they sign up.”
At the table for the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Olivia Goodale offered candy, posters and small fliers with information on her group.
“People always like free stuff,” she said. “The first draw to the table in general is the candy; then people see the signs for Jesus.”
Many students at the IVCF table filled out raffle cards to win gift cards to restaurants in the Durham area, while even more grabbed a treat and just moved on.
Goodale was unconcerned, however, saying there is a fifty-fifty split between who just wants free stuff and who is looking for more information.
The UNH cycling team table offered no candy or free knickknacks, but had a different appeal. “The bikes do it,” said club vice-president Conor Madison. “We don’t need to coax them in.”
For Madison, attending Tuesday night meetings shows true interest in the club. Everyone who comes to the table can put down a name and email but only half attend the first meeting.
Allison Labore, a member of the Fia-Chait Irish Dance club, claimed her club has a solid retention rate of 30 percent.
In her experience, students sign up for numerous clubs, go to several first meetings, and then “decide they don’t want the commitment.”
Like many others, sophomore Carson Cape went straight for the free watermelon and ice cream and was not looking to join additional clubs.
He believes, however, that U-Day serves the community and is a great time for “potential students to look around.”