University Press

FAU student organizations celebrate religious and political ideologies

The clubs are open to all students, even if they don't share the same beliefs.

From+the+Hijab-A-Thon+to+voting+registration+efforts%2C+on-campus+organizations+give+people+the+chance+to+embrace+and+share+their+affiliations+while+still+coexisting+with+others.+%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Pixabay
From the Hijab-A-Thon to voting registration efforts, on-campus organizations give people the chance to embrace and share their affiliations while still coexisting with others. 
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

From the Hijab-A-Thon to voting registration efforts, on-campus organizations give people the chance to embrace and share their affiliations while still coexisting with others. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

From the Hijab-A-Thon to voting registration efforts, on-campus organizations give people the chance to embrace and share their affiliations while still coexisting with others. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Kristen Grau, Staff Writer

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This story is a part of our print issue on diversity, which looks at differences in beliefs, race, gender/sexuality, age, disabilities, and social class among FAU students and faculty.

There are over 500 student organizations at FAU — with at least one dedicated to nearly every political and religious affiliation.

The following clubs celebrate and provide an environment for students to share both.

And although their ideas differ, they all have a mutual understanding: they’re open to anyone joining, regardless of their beliefs.

RELIGION

Campus Crusade for Christ is dedicated to worshipping God and volunteering for the community, President Camila Cabrejos said. Photo by Violet Castano

Campus Crusade for Christ

  • Founded in: 2014
  • Symbol: Christian cross
  • Number of members: 60
  • Meeting times: Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m. in Live Oak B
  • President: Camila Cabrejos

Campus Crusade for Christ is a Christian group at FAU rooted in volunteering and “connecting other people with Jesus,” President Camila Cabrejos said.

The organization’s weekly Tuesday meetings are called “worship nights,” when members separate into small groups and discuss all things related to the Christian faith. They meet in Live Oak B near the Student Union and Parking Garage 1.

Worship nights give students a chance to create “a strong sense of community and friendships,” Cabrejos said.

The organization is an outreach ministry, which means they focus on providing aid to the surrounding community. Events include donating clothes to homeless shelters in Miami and cleaning up nearby beaches.

The group is interdenominational, which means it’s open to all religions.

Cabrejos said the club’s most popular event is “Food for Thought,” which involves tabling around campus and giving away pizza in exchange for students’ thoughts on faith.

“Whenever someone is in need, we make an event for it,” Cabrejos said.

Catholic Newman Club

  • Founded in: 2010
  • Number of members: 30-40
  • Meeting times: Every other Thursday, 7-9 p.m. in Student Activities Center, Room 156
  • President: Christopher Jeffrey

The Catholic Newman Club takes what you’d find at a Sunday morning church service and brings it right to campus.

The group of 30-40 members meets every other Thursday for “Rise Night,” which is an “informal gathering for students revolving around the Catholic faith,” President Christopher Jeffrey said. Members meet in the Student Activities Center, which is found near the Student Union Outtakes along Diversity Way.

The organization also invites missionaries from the local Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) to preach on Rise Nights. Afterward, there’s a discussion about the teachings. Other Rise Nights are dedicated to Bible studies.

The club also goes on religious retreats to other universities, which help students “get deeper into faith,” Jeffrey said.

On the Thursdays in between Rise Nights, there are men and women’s nights, which are held off-campus. These get-togethers can include mini-golf, scavenger hunts, or hockey games.

“At [Catholic Newman Club], you meet people who care about you and your success,” Jeffrey said.

The Muslim Student Association holds bi-weekly Islamic discussions, and has raised hundreds of dollars for charity, President Asmaa Mohamed said. Photo by Violet Castano

Muslim Student Association

  • Founded in: 2000
  • Symbol: Star and crescent
  • Number of members: 60
  • Meeting times: Varies
  • President: Asmaa Mohamed

The Muslim Student Association’s goal is to create a “safe haven” for students of any religion, President Asmaa Mohamed said.

The organization holds bi-weekly “halaqas,” or Islamic discussions, from 6-8 p.m. on varying weekdays, as well as three general body meetings per semester. Their meeting places change throughout the semester.

“[The halaqas] put things back into focus,” Mohamed said.

The group’s members invest time into philanthropic work with both Islamic and general organizations. They’ve collectively raised hundreds of dollars for Fort Lauderdale homeless support groups, cancer walk Relay for Life, the Islamic Circle of North America, and more.

Their annual events include Iftar (the first meal after Ramadan — over 200 people participated this year), Hijab-a-Thon (where the club hands out hijabs on the Breezeway), and Florida MSA Games (a club retreat with other chapters across Florida).  

Organization members hail from several different countries, creating a melting pot of different cultures all tied together by Islam.

“We uplift,” Mohamad said. “We’re a family.”

Chabad Jewish Owls

  • Founded in: 2005
  • Number of members: 50
  • Meeting times: Fridays, 7 p.m. at Chabad Student Center off campus
  • President: Bentlee Birchansky

Chabad Jewish Owls is designed to get students “more connected to the Jewish lifestyle and religion,” President Bentlee Birchansky said.

The group meets every Friday night at the Chabad Student Center for members of the Jewish faith a block away from campus. Nearly 50 members gather for its weekly 7 p.m. Shabbat dinner. The Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest on the seventh day of the week.

Although the organization is largely Jewish, it welcomes students of all religions.

The directors of the center, Rabbi Boruch and Rivka Liberow, are also available to Jewish students for counseling and support, Birchansky said.

The club often partners with Hillel, another Jewish organization located on the Breezeway near the Wimberly Library, to host events like “The Big Babka Bake” where students share traditional Jewish pastries. The student organization also holds celebrations for holy day Yom Kippur and the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, among others.

Students can “take away the opportunity to feel a part of a family,” Birchansky said.

The Soka Gakkai Buddhist Division is against violence, and tabled on the Breezeway during the International Day of Peace this year, President Marisa Martinez said. Photo by Violet Castano

Soka Gakkai Buddhist Division

  • Founded in: 2017
  • Symbol: Soka Gakkai symbol
  • Number of members: 25
  • Meeting times: Monthly, 5:30-7 p.m. in the Sugar Palm Room
  • President: Marisa Martinez

Soka Gakkai is Japanese for “value-creation society.” To president of FAU’s Soka Gakkai Buddhist Division, Marisa Martinez — it means “to find value in any situation.”

Once a month, students are welcome to contribute to the discussion-based meetings held in the Student Union Sugar Palm Room. The club goes over concepts like peace, the environment, and freedom through a Buddhist lens.

One of the organization’s goals is to swap a “culture of violence for a peace,” Martinez said.

The club’s emphasis on peace led members to celebrate International Day of Peace this year on the Breezeway. They addressed their stances on peace, nuclear warfare, and poverty with students who passed by.

Some Soka Gakkai members also participated in this year’s Miami Lions of Justice Festival, a cultural Buddhist festival that promotes peace through music, speakers, and films. The event was hosted by the larger International Soka Gakkai organization.  

Martinez added, “We believe [world peace] is a possibility … through transforming human spirit.”

POLITICS

College Republicans members can get hands-on political experience by campaigning for their candidates, President Tyler Gidseg said. Photo by Violet Castano

College Republicans

  • Founded in: 2015
  • Symbol: Republican elephant
  • Number of members: 30
  • Meeting times: Varies
  • President: Tyler Gidseg

College Republicans aims to “recruit and engage with like-minded people … and get people [politically] engaged and involved,” President Tyler Gidseg said.

The organization offers members the chance to campaign and volunteer for their party’s candidates, which was the case for the Florida primaries in August.

Their events range from debating with the College Democrats to hosting local politicians as speakers on campus.

The club is designed to teach students, regardless of affiliation, about “the political process, liberty, conservative values, and a general overview of how government runs,” Gidseg said.

General body meetings are monthly, and typically draw in 15-30 people, although the club hopes to add another date each month. The location varies.

“You get to meet new people … and open your doors,” Gidseg said. “[College Republicans] is just a bunch of fun.”

College Democrats has been at FAU since the 90s, and hosts talks from national and local politicians, President Matthew Taudien said. Photo by Violet Castano

College Democrats

  • Founded in: 1995
  • Symbol: Democratic donkey
  • Number of members: 70
  • Meeting times: Every other Wednesday, 7-8 p.m. in the Palmetto Palm Room
  • President: Matthew Taudien

College Democrats gives students a taste of the political life by placing them in the heat of real campaigns.

Currently, the club’s focus is on supporting Democratic state governor candidates in the November midterm elections.

“We give students hands-on experience how their political process works,” President Matthew Taudien said. “Politics affects us all.”

The group routinely hosts talks from local and national politicians — including House Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, House Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and Boca Raton Councilwoman Monica Moyette.

“[By] knocking on doors, talking to people, and [participating in] Campus Blue Wave [a voter registration initiative], that’s how we plan to make a difference this election,” Taudien said.

The club also wants to educate FAU students on issues like affordable health care and student debt.

When the group isn’t out canvassing for various political candidates, they’re usually bowling or playing laser tag, which the College Republicans occasionally join.

Young Democratic Socialists of America has only been at FAU since Jan. 2018, but is a place for progressives to have their voices heard, Vice President Tess Moody said. Photo by Violet Castano

Young Democratic Socialists of America

  • Founded in: 2018
  • Symbol: Rose
  • Number of members: 10
  • Meeting times: Every other Wednesday, 7 p.m. in Culture and Society, Room 130
  • President: Sophie Siegel

Young Democratic Socialists of America strives to be a home for “progressives on campus who don’t identify with the Democratic party,” said Vice President Tess Moody.

The central topics members will be addressing this year are community hunger, Broward school issues, and decriminalization of sex work, Moody added.

As a ripe organization only founded this January, YDSA has yet to establish traditions — but the club recently hosted 19-year-old Elijah Manley, who is running for Broward County’s school board, as a guest speaker on campus.

Events in the works include supply drives for Broward schools and more Q&A sessions with local political candidates.

General body meetings are meant to be “conversational and collaborative,” Moody said. Board members frequently ask members what issues matter to them and then work from there.

“YDSA is a place where people can come and make their voice heard,” Moody said. “At the end of the day, we want to make a difference.”

Kristen Grau is a staff writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].

About the Writer
Kristen Grau, Staff Writer

Kristen is a junior multimedia journalism major who previously worked as a contributing writer. She hopes to do long-form feature reporting for a magazine...

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