His freshman year, Josh Simkovitz didn’t expect many students to attend Shabbat dinners hosted by Chabad, Chapman’s Jewish student organization. Now as a senior, he joins over 100 Jewish students for these Friday night meals.
Simkovitz said Chabad is more than just another student group.
“If you ask anyone what Chabad is and what it means to people at Chapman, it is family, it is a community and it is a home away from home,” he said.
Simkovitz is part of the 47% of undergraduate students at Chapman who have found belonging in such a setting. From the Data Analytics Association to Chapman Drum Circle, students can find purpose and community through the over 200 clubs on campus.
Senior Kaylee Snow has been in Chapman’s Club 55, a Disney club, since she was a freshman and even served as president for a year. She says that Club 55 has provided her with a sense of home that kept her spirits high, even when school was weighing her down.
“For me to find a sense of belonging, it really kept me going through my time at Chapman,” she said.
Snow was so inspired by her time at Club 55 that she decided to become a lead student organizations assistant in 2021, helping oversee the programming of all the clubs and providing support in any way she can.
Moving to college, Snow says, is an uncertain time in many students’ lives. One thing she loves most about student organizations is how they help integrate fresh faces into campus life – taming those first-year jitters.
“For any student organization on campus, providing that sense of community for students is huge, especially when you are moving away from your family and taking the step on to a college campus,” Snow said.
Simkovitz couldn’t agree more, and it was that sense of community that inspired him to get more involved with Chabad – becoming the tabling chair for Chabad and giving back to the club he loves so much in any way he can. Whether it’s tabling in the Piazza or passing out food, he appreciates every moment he gets to spend with his club family before graduation.
“You want to go to college and have lots of friends and make memories because that is a huge part of your college experience,” Simkovitz said. “And Chabad on campus, or really any student organization, is a place where you can do that.”
Chabad has been at Chapman for five years, helping people who are Jewish to connect to Judaism and enabling them to be proud of their faith Simkovitz said. It provides free kosher meals to its members, gives classes about the Jewish faith, and a space where students can unplug from the stresses of life.
“You don’t have to worry about school or homework,” Simkovitz said. “You just show up, eat food, talk with friends, and have a good time.”
Another group dedicated to helping students find belonging is I Am That Girl, a global organization with clubs all over the country with the purpose of empowering young women.
The club discusses everything from current events to gender roles and expectations, putting a heavy focus on taking care of oneself during the everyday stresses of college life.
President senior Sydney Kerl thinks her group takes a step further, as Kerl said she’s dedicated to fostering a community where anyone and everyone can be themselves and feel welcome. Particularly for women, Kerl attested, college doesn’t always feel like the most accepting place.
“It’s important to promote inclusivity and togetherness on campus and I Am That Girl is a community where you can do that,” she said.
Not being from California, Kerl feels I.A.T.G was very important to integrate her into the community as well as maintain her mental well-being. She feels lucky to be able to give that back to new members.
“It was a great way to meet new people and so now being president to be able to create the same type of support group it was for me is really cool,” Kerl said.
President of the Korean American Student Association senior Kevin Cho has a very similar experience to Kerl. Having transferred to Chapman as a sophomore, the student organizations were the first place he looked to make friends. He knows many since then have done the same, and so he aims to create a welcoming environment where anyone can find their home.
“My main mission with the club is to create an atmosphere where any student can come and feel like they belong,” Cho said.
Thanks to leaders like Cho and Kerl, students like Simkovitz can find where they belong. He loves Chabad and all it has done for him and it was everything for his time at Chapman.
“When I’m older, and I look back on my four years at Chapman, I’m not going to remember my electives or the details of the campus, but I’ll look back and say, ‘wow, Chabad made my Chapman experience,’” Simkovitz said.
Jack Dunn is a junior screenwriting major with a passion for photography. This is his first year writing for a Chapman University publication and he is excited to share his work with the student body.