How My Friends & I Started A Club at U of T

Scrolling through the long list of clubs that University of Toronto has to offer, it almost seems like there’s a club perfect for every kind of student. However, my friends and I quickly realized this wasn’t the case midway through our Spring semester. While all clubs had interesting events, we wanted to take on the challenge of starting a club that reflected our personal vision. I sat down with my good friends and founding members of the World Affairs and Relations Symposium, Kevin Li and Arina Asloian, to talk with them about their experiences.

My friends and I were initially drawn together by our time together in the Vic One program. We all come from different backgrounds, but in the classroom, we came to discussions as equals and engaged in meaningful political discussions, regardless of personal beliefs. We would especially like to acknowledge the role that Professor Falkenheim’s class played in the genesis of our club, whose class on democracy and development gave us a space to discuss with our peers and provide us with new perspectives.

This space that Professor Falkenheim’s class provided us laid the foundation for what we wanted our club to be: a place to encourage discussion of not just politics, but our world at large. We recognize that it’s not just Political Science students that are well-informed on world events and social causes, and we wanted to create a space that reflects this. Politics is for everyone and we’re passionate about showing people how easy it is to get into it! These discussions we wanted to hold are not structured like debate-formatted clubs or Model UNs – rather, we wanted a club that gives the opportunity for anyone to provide their views and learn from other perspectives as well.

Photo of 5 students. From left to right: Selina, Kevin, Andrew, Abeera and Zainab
From left to right: Selina, Kevin, Andrew, Abeera and Zainab - my friends & co-creators of our club!

For Co-President Arina, it’s all about turning “the particular into the familiar.” On starting this club, she says, “Once you understand politics and societal structures, you can't stop seeing them everywhere – every art piece and life story. It makes you realize just how important it is to be educated and be able to apply your knowledge to recognize those patterns.”

Getting Started

Once we decided to start our own club, it was finally time to get started! We were all eager to get jump right into the fun stuff: hosting events, putting up posters, and connecting with like-minded individuals. But first: paperwork.

There are many different ways to start a club at U of T, and we did ours through Victoria College. While Victoria College has an extremely well-established system that allows those interested to easily apply for a club, other colleges have similar systems as well! Details for starting a club can easily be located on their respective websites, which anyone interested in starting a club should definitely check out.

Our executive team was behind all the forms and procedures that went into getting our club approved. I talked with the two presidents – Kevin and Arina – about what this process looks like.

KEVIN: There are several forms you will need to fill out in the process that will be important when applying to start your own club. You will be guided to create supporting documents for your club such as the constitution, club logos, social media, and more. From completing the forms and club material to getting it approved, the process really only took us a week to complete – even while attending classes! Approval for the club usually takes place in the summer so familiarize yourselves with the application dates.

ARINA: To be entirely honest, I thought the idea was nerdy and no one would want to commit to creating a club. Yet, when we first voiced it, all of our friends were on board with it; to me, their enthusiasm served as a confirmation that we can have a successful and recognized club.

Co-Presidents Arina and Kevin
Co-Presidents Arina and Kevin

What’s Next?

Getting a club started is just the start of the journey! As my friends and I begin to transition to university life as second years, it’s important to plan accordingly so that next year will be a balanced, enjoyable one. When creating the club format, we made sure to take into consideration these challenges and accommodate them by tasking ourselves with a manageable number of events and noting down midterm and finals dates so no one's studies will clash with our club events.

We are looking to host a bi-weekly symposium where we will cover a variety of topics in a relaxed setting with snacks for our club members! Interested in politics or public policy? We’ll be covering topics from a wide range of current events such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Toronto public policy, and more. Interested in science or STEM? We will have conversations on topics such as the future of AI, social media, and more.

We aim to promote political awareness among young people, and welcome students from all academic backgrounds! While we are expecting a bigger turnout of Political Science students at more “academic” events, such as readings and discussions, we still encourage everyone, interested in politics or not, to join and participate in a variety of events that we offer! We have a number of ideas for events, such as film screenings and game nights, to make the club exciting for non-Political Science students.

And for anyone who wants to start their own club, Arina and Kevin have two main takeaways from the process: community and communication.

KEVIN: Get your friends and classmates interested in the process, and see if they want to be involved as well! Luckily for us, many of the people we knew were all very interested in the club idea and quickly joined on to help us with the application process. Take your time, enjoy the process, and be confident with your idea!

ARINA: Make sure that you and your peers establish a good foundation and clearly communicate your goals and ideas about the club. It will help avoid future misunderstandings and disturb the collaborative process. Communication skills are a must when trying to run a club – we would not even get to have one if one of us did not raise the idea!

The World Affairs and Relations Symposium meets bi-weekly. Interested in joining? Connect with us @uoft.wars on Instagram!

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