The best clubs you’ve never considered

The time to learn how to fence, how to DJ and how to become a firefighter is now.


Each fall, University students are reminded of the spirited extracurricular involvement which defines life on Grounds — and the tendency for many engaging groups to be pushed out of the spotlight. While Honor, StudCo and Madison House garner the majority of attention because of their visibility and strong ties to University ideology, U.Va. boasts an impressive 675 Contracted Independent Organizations, many of which can be easily overlooked. We take a look at eight of the most interesting groups you may never have considered.

1. International Genetically Engineered Competition (iGEM)

This co-curricular groups focuses on synthetic biology, an emerging field of genetic engineering which aims to create new biological systems and make biology easier to engineer. Sound technical? U.Va.’s iGEM team is here to help. As the group prepares for this year’s competition, in which teams will work to create a standardized part for the creation of mini-cells — a scientific phenomenon thought to hold significant potential for drug therapy, drug targeting and genetic therapy — iGEM at U.Va. will offer a three-credit spring course to help members become scientifically literate in the field. The group then works over summer to prepare for October’s national competition, with the international finals held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in November.

“It’s all about [providing] lab experience for undergrads that’s directed by undergrads,” third-year College student Josh Leehan said. “A lot of the time, professors only have [undergraduates] doing busywork, and we want to change that.”

The application process for the group is currently open.

2. One in Four

Think sexual assault is an issue only women care about? Think again. One in Four, an all-male group which aims to raise awareness about issues of sexual violence around Grounds, hopes to change the nature of the discussion by promoting men to talk candidly with other men about the problem. Through outreach events with dorm groups, club sports teams and fraternities, One in Four intends not to lecture, but to inspire men to help survivors.

“Too often, the discussion [around sexual assault] villainizes men, instead of presenting them as people who should be empowered to join the fight,” third-year College student Win Jordan said.

The selection process takes place in November.

3. Wahoo Wub Wub

Founded only a year ago, Wahoo Wub Wub is already making waves through U.Va.’s music scene as the only electronic dance music (EDM) club on Grounds. The group, which celebrates the culture and music of EDM, works to create a U.Va. DJ network, both through instruction and by providing DJs for events. Utilizing its large Facebook presence to organize outside events, Wahoo Wub Wub also held a number of successful “fund ragers” within the past year to raise money and showcase student DJs, who were each given an hour-long slot to perform. 100 members strong and still growing, the club’s ties to local venues provides invaluable opportunities for members, who can receive tickets to shows at the Jefferson Theater and even DJ for an evening at the Southern.

Membership is open to all interested.

4. The Student Docents at the Fralin Museum of Art

U.Va.’s Fralin Museum of Art may be located on Rugby Road, but the experience it offers students is distinctly different than the fraternity houses that surround it. With exhibitions open to the general public, the Museum, which is governed by its own advisory board, is a professional group that is both affiliated with the University and largely autonomous. This provides an unusual experience for the 15-20 student docents the Museum hires to give tours each semester, who have the chance to work alongside professional curators in an environment friendly to students. Docents are trained to give tours to other students as well as visitors of all ages.

“The group [of docents] is very diverse,” fourth-year College student Jessie Cappello said. “Not everyone is an art history major.”

Applications are currently being accepted.

5. U.Va. Fencing Club

Looking for a club athletic team that doesn’t require prior experience? Look no further. The U.Va. Fencing Club, open to all interested parties, welcomes inexperienced members with open arms. During the first month, members try out the different weapons – the sabre, the epee and the foil – and choose one to specialize by the end of the month, when U.Va. hosts a “newbie” tournament to compete against other Virginia schools.

“Though we practice three times a week and attend 12-20 tournaments per year, students really determine their own commitment as far as attendance,” President and fourth-year College student Nicholas Monahan said.

The first open practice will be held on Monday, Sept. 2.

6. Smart Woman Securities

Last year, three members of U.Va.’s Smart Woman Securities group flew to Omaha for a four-hour dinner with Warren Buffett. It’s clear in the male-dominated world of finance, these women are doing something right.

Smart Woman Securities is a McIntyre School of Commerce club that welcomes all female University students, even those who have no business knowledge or experience. Designed to educate girls about investment and finance, members go through a ten-week education seminar taught by McIntyre professors and a number of guest speakers. After the seminar, members have the opportunity to apply to join the analyst program, which researches statistics within a specific industry, such as real estate or energy and industrial. The organization also houses a personal mentoring program with leading investment bank J.P. Morgan.

“Smart Woman Securities is a great alternative to the McIntyre Investment Institute, which has less women in leadership [positions], and can be less friendly to women who don’t have basic finance knowledge,” fourth-year Commerce student Katie Ardiff said. “[We] provide a safe environment for women to get exposure [to finance] and test out a potential career path.”

The group is presently recruiting new members.

7. WUVA Media

Providing multimedia coverage of local events to the University and the community, WUVA Media is a unique journalistic outlet most visible through its radio station, WUVA 92.7 FM. The group, which covers news, sports and entertainment both online and on the air, is an independent student corporation unaffiliated with U.Va., as students manage all finances with the help of an alumni advisory board. With a national network of contacts, WUVA Radio has a special ability to cover events on a large scale.

“One of my favorite nights [at U.Va.] was when I was on the air covering the 2012 election,” fourth-year College student Emily Lang said. “We had reporters calling in stories from Chicago, D.C. and Richmond. It was so quickly-paced and exciting.”

WUVA Media is currently accepting new recruits.

8. Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department

For those looking to escape the U.Va. bubble, a number of opportunities exist for students via Albemarle County public services. Though the Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department is technically affiliated with Albemarle County Fire and Rescue, University students make up 60 percent of its ranks. The group provides various training to students, who can become certified firefighters in seven months and certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in four months. Additional training is offered to teach students how to drive the fire trucks or save those trapped in vehicle wreckages.

“Upon the completion of training, students can actually enter in burning buildings or respond to life-threatening medical calls,” Membership Chairman Andrew Getty, a Class of 2013 graduate, said.

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