The BYU Club Scene
With hundreds of clubs to choose from—ranging from the offbeat to the academic—there’s something for every student.
Photography by Bradley H. Slade (BFA ’94)
On a cool, clear Tuesday evening in the middle of fall semester, students drift toward the glowing Wilkinson Student Center. As they come in the northwest entrance, they’re greeted by BYUSA volunteers handing out maps and burritos wrapped in crinkly paper. Some have come for the free food, some with a specific purpose, some just to explore: it’s Clubs Night, the weekly event that brings together a few dozen clubs and an average of 700 students.
A main-floor wanderer might run into swing dancers, karate masters, debaters, or a cappella harmonizers. Upstairs offerings include the socially conscious (EcoResponse and BYU Vegetarians Clubs), the athletic (Bicycle and Triathlon Clubs), and the quirky (Weird Al Fan and Disney History Clubs). Other clubs meet at various times throughout the semester—all with the goal of connecting students with shared passions.
These groups, says BYUSA clubs coordinator Angela D. Blomquist (BS ’12), provide “an opportunity for students to find their niche and a place to fit in. Obviously, we’re here to get an education,” she adds, “but what we do outside of the classroom is also part of the complete package—that overall BYU experience.”
And with more than 200 academic and special-interest clubs covering everything from jujitsu to American Sign Language to earthquake research, odds are pretty good that students looking for a community of like-minded people can find one.
Naa’taanii A. Tsosie (’18), a computer science major from Provo, recently helped plan a cultural celebration with the Tribe of Many Feathers Club and says he enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with other Native Americans. “It’s just so nice to have that close association with people like you,” he says.
For some, club involvement has a lasting impact that goes beyond their campus experiences. After creating and leading BYU’s Anti–Human Trafficking Club, Kyle J. Durfee (’15) landed his dream internship with anti–human trafficking organization Polaris. As he made copies one day in their Washington, D.C., office in the summer of 2012, the management major had what he calls an “oddly significant moment.”
“I realized, I’m loving this,” he says. “The people here are doing really important things, making a pretty big impact, and I’m making copies and just thrilled about it.”
Durfee will work for Boston Consulting Group after he graduates in April, and, as with his internship, he says the practical skills he acquired leading his club helped him get the gig.
“In the club I applied a lot of things I was learning about in business classes—let’s try something, let’s learn from our mistakes,” he says. “I captured a lot of knowledge through the years.”
We’d highlight them all if we had a few issues to devote, but since we don’t, following is a sampling of BYU’s myriad club offerings.
Brandon S. Llewellyn (BS ’14), left, solved his first Rubik’s Cube in 2008, and in 2013, after developing a passion for speedsolving, he decided to start a BYU club for like-minded enthusiasts. The Rubik’s Cube Speedsolving Club’s listed purposes? Help members solve cubes intuitively, quickly, one-handed, and blindfolded (possible with a variety of memorization techniques). At a gathering, students work individually or in small groups, sharing tips, hands moving deftly to solve cubes, pyramids, and pentagonal prisms (yep, that’s a thing with colored stickers. Colors at first jumbled are rapidly, blurrily aligned, the sound of twisting cubes clicking in the background. “It’s really fun to watch yourself and those you teach improve,” Llewellyn says, noting that finding new tricks and ways to combine steps “keeps the puzzle interesting even after all this time.”
FOR THE LOVE OF THE BEAT
Hip Hop Club has been the backbone of my experience here at BYU. I’ve formed lifelong friends.—Shaun Ramage
The choreographer leads with a “five, six, seven, eight“ before the WSC Ballroom becomes a flurry of coordinated popping, stomping, and air-punching. Fifty-plus students—decked out in colorful T-shirts (“Keep Calm & Dance On,” reads one) and the occasional trucker hat—groove through the choreography. Some drift to the sides to workshop solo or small-group moves, but most eventually circle up for a freestyle session. Taking the chance to solo in the middle are Brandon O. Henson (’16) and Bryan E. Platamone (’17), Camille Jones (’18), Naomi M. Tanner (’17), Cristina L. Collazos-Garcia (BA, BS ’14), and Michael C. Hsiung (’15).
It’s a favorite scene of club president Shaun P. Ramage (’16), who says the camaraderie and shared love of dance draw the 70-plus club members who come to jam each week.
Connor R. Tollefsen (’17), right, and S. Benjamin Puente (’17) join 12 other players settling in for one or two—or 10-plus, for some—games of Tuesday-night chess. Eyes on their vinyl boards, they’re focused, but their general quiet is punctuated by periodic laughter and banter: “Quit preventing all of my attacks—it’s so annoying! So annoying.” Some encouragement too: when one player protests, “Honestly? I don’t even have a chance here,” his opponent responds, “Yes, you do.” Chess Club president James P. Olmstead (’17), who plays in tournaments with some of his fellow club members, says the weekly game time is “something to look forward to every week outside of school.”
THE SWEET SPOT
The Ping Pong Club’s Tuesday night “meetings” are an informal—but sometimes intense—affair. On one of eight tables, Clubs Night wanderers can play a casual game or two, while regulars hunker down for three-hour smackdowns. There are few official club members—“people just show up to play Ping-Pong,” says club president Derek S. Stewart (’15). The quiet smack of balls meeting paddles provides a soundtrack to the scene: players pivot on their feet, jog along table edges, and return serves with underhand flicks and overhead slams. Here Kyle P. Esplin (’18), BYUSA’s executive director of Clubs Night (left), plays with Kanokphol Limpanasriphong (’17), who, Esplin says, “was being nice enough to let me win a few rallies.”
On a warm October Friday night, visitors to BYU’s planetarium are sucked through a wormhole on the hunt for a missing moon—led by members of the Astronomical Society who created the show. Afterward, up on the Eyring Science Center’s observation deck, society members (from left) Adam K. Pierce (’15), Madison A. Boyer (’17), Clément Gaillard (’15), Marsie Trego (’17), and John T. Bohman (’17) show off heavenly wonders like the Andromeda Galaxy and the star Vega through high-powered telescopes. The clear weather allows Boyer, a new recruit working on the observation deck for the first time, to more easily navigate the skies. “I am learning things on the deck that I wouldn’t be able to learn in class,” says Boyer, a mechanical-engineering major.
Along with running weekly planetarium shows, club members pack telescopes up to Provo Canyon three times a semester for stargazing parties.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with all things relating to space. I guess I joined the club mostly because I wanted to rekindle that love and fascination I had in my early childhood.—Madison Boyer
Brandon E. Clay (’15) took his first stab at road biking on a Triathlon Club training ride up Provo’s South Fork Canyon. He was so tired, he says, that he “barely made it home”—but he was hooked. Now president of the club that coordinates 6 a.m. workouts for its 30 to 40 active members six days a week, rain, snow, or shine, he says, “I like to challenge myself, push myself to accomplish great things.” Club members compete in four or five triathlons a year together, and individual members often complete additional races on their own. “We build each other up,” says club member Jeffrey K. Griffiths (’17). “We cheer for each other at races. It’s a really good group to be involved with.” And when they’re not competing, they’re hosting: in November the club sponsored its second annual True Cougar Biathlon, a campus swim and run.