With the record-breaking number of first-year students starting the fall 2023 semester, the College of Charleston aims to make each and every student feel at home. That’s why it hosted the inaugural BEst Fest on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023, in the Cistern Yard. With the tagline, “BE Intentional, BE Connected, BE You, BElong,” the all-day BEst Fest gave students of all backgrounds the opportunity to immerse themselves in the happenings of the campus and the community.
Many of the College’s 296 clubs were represented at the event, giving them the opportunity to share their mission with many new faces. But – with food trucks, games, activities and more for students to connect with each other and with the Charleston community – BEst Fest is much more than your typical tabling event for clubs and organizations.
“This is truly a cross-campus collaboration,” says Stephanie Visser, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, adding: “We want students to see that concepts around sustainability, community, connection, identity, service and wellness all lead to a sense of belonging.”
And the students certainly seemed to get a lot out of it.
“It was a really cool opportunity to meet new people who share the same interests as me,” says first-year Honors student Ria Khanna, who took full advantage of all that BEst Fest had to offer, signing up for activities with the Outdoors Club, Tennis Club and Asian Club.
Indeed, BEst Fest showed that – with everything from the Student Diversity and Inclusion Council to the Cheese Club – the College of Charleston truly has something for everyone. And not just for first-year students.
“Even after being here for two years, I loved being able to learn more about all of the organizations that are on campus,” says junior business administration major Collin Leeds, who – after checking out Charleston Miracle’s table and exchanging information with its organizer – was off to the next table that caught his eye.
As students made their way around the event – going head to head in a game of spikeball one minute and learning about the opportunity to raise a service dog the next – they made some friends, too!
“We wanted students to come through the fair and feel like people wanted them to be there and to feel like they belonged,” says Naomi Simmons, director of the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center.
With the crowd reaching around 1,700 people, the inaugural BEst Fest certainly was a success. The higher-than-expected attendance helped the participating clubs and organizations jump-start their school year with new members and new faces. And this diversity, equity and inclusion initiative also succeeded in bringing students of all backgrounds, interests and hobbies together.
“The event got a lot of different people together who might not have interacted otherwise — and that was our biggest goal,” says Nicole Killen, associate director for student engagement at the Center for Sustainable Development. “We wanted to bring everyone to the table to be able to bring together people who come from different backgrounds, and be able to really showcase that.”