CUNY SPS is renowned for its top-rated online undergraduate and graduate programs. Although online learning comes with numerous benefits, there are also times when it may present unique challenges for students seeking to foster a sense of community.
That’s where Parshotam Lal, who goes by Parsh, takes on the responsibility of being the student life club and organization coordinator at CUNY SPS. His goal is to create a vibrant community for students to engage and participate in clubs.
“The clubs help students connect with each other,” he said in an interview. “Sometimes they’re talking about their lives… I’m like, ‘You know what, they’re all together, they’re engaging with each other. They all feel happy—I feel so happy.’”
Parsh himself was a human relations undergrad at CUNY SPS and graduated in 2021 before starting this position. “When I was a student, I was looking for that community aspect,” he said. “I really wanted to talk to my peers… but it was really hard because it was a virtual environment.” When he had the opportunity to manage and oversee the clubs at CUNY SPS, Parsh was ecstatic to help create the communities he wished for during his own student days.
When Parsh assumed the role, it was still relatively new. “At first, I only had six clubs on my hand… and now it’s about 25.”
Parsh explained that at first, due to the lack of resources, students felt frustrated and unsupported by the school administration. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s not the right message. I’m sorry that happened.’ I had to really first start by building relationships and trust with the students. And that meant helping them grow, and support them in their events.”
Today, CUNY SPS clubs and organizations host events every week, whether virtually or in-person on campus. Parsh helps clubs and student leaders organize these events and weekly activities. “Like the DAC [Disability and Access Coalition] for example—they put on amazing things virtually. They put on game night this past weekend… and movie nights, [and] all these amazing things they do.”
Newer clubs, such as the Cooking Club, hold virtual cooking demonstrations where members prepare a recipe and others follow along. Meanwhile, the Software Development Club conducts virtual learning sessions for beginner coders with the guidance of programming experts.
Apart from activities and events, clubs and organizations at CUNY SPS also help create opportunities for students to take on leadership roles. Although some may be hesitant about being student leaders in clubs, Parsh emphasized that he will support them through it. He shared that some students had never been in a leadership role before and were anxious about their new roles. “And now, they’re speaking like nothing. I think public speaking is a big thing they learned from this. They learned to make friends.”
Although Parsh now manages 25 clubs and organizations, he hopes to officially launch a few more new clubs at the start of the Fall 2023 semester, including an Esports club (video games played competitively for spectators). He actively encourages more students to come to him with ideas for new clubs.
“When you don’t have your own community, I can understand what people feel—like, ‘What’s there for me?’” he said. “Let’s make what you want. What do you want to see here? We’ll make it happen. So, I say take a chance—that’s my number one advice.”
For current and incoming CUNY SPS students, there are many avenues to start participating in student life—whether that be through joining clubs and events or creating new ones.
Many of us would like to be a part of something during our college experience, so it’s crucial to take that first step. Students can join a club meeting, RSVP for an event, or ask questions. Parsh wants to see students engaged in a community of their own and is more than willing to answer student questions and emails.
“So take that chance,” he added. “Know that you’re not going to get overwhelmed with it. It’s going to be something enjoyable, something you will always remember. You will get to do fun things and see where it goes.”