New year, new student organizations

New student organiations include Native American Student Organization, Film Society and NAACP chapter


Elena Lee

After a year of remote Zoom meetings and dwindling club participation, students can now meet in person to pursue their passions in new and old clubs alike.

Andrew Claybrook

As students return to campus after a year of virtual and distance learning, student organizations are springing back to life. Some went quiet during COVID-19, while others are brand new.

The Alexander Hamilton Society went dormant a few years ago, but is back under the leadership of President Jackson Sharman, ’22, and officers Warner Speed, ’22, Samantha Carley, ’22 and James Dixon, ’23. The club focuses on foreign policy, national security, and economic statecraft, a blend that is not represented by other groups on campus. “We want to provide a forum for students to learn and talk about the most pressing international issues facing the U.S. today,” Sharman said. Students interested in getting involved with the Alexander Hamilton Society can do so by attending bi-weekly meetings to discuss readings and attending talks hosted by the group.

The Brain Exercise Initiative is a new student group dedicated to serving Lexington’s elderly population. Originally started at UCLA, the Brain Exercise Initiative now has over 50 chapters nationally and is now making its debut at Washington and Lee.“Our goal is to connect with the seniors in our community as well as help their cognitive skills and slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jonathan Gagnon, ’23, who leads the club.If students are interested, they can expect 30- to 45-minute visits to seniors’ homes in the Lexington area, working with seniors and building connections with them.

Also new to campus this year is Washington and Lee’s own NAACP chapter, a project spearheaded by Leia Barrow, ’22. Barrow was inspired by her time work-ing with her local chapter in her home state of Georgia and with Rockbridge County’s NAACP. She said the need was made especially relevant after national events such as the murder of George Floyd and local controversy over the university’s nam. The campus NAACP chapter is still in the process of finalizing elections and ensuring that it is up to national standards, but welcome any and all interested students to join.

Film Society is another group reemerging this year. According to club president Nolan Zunk, ’22, the society “produces and supports student film initiatives including production and analysis,” offering students a chance to engage with film both from creative and receptive aspects. This year, the club will be creating a few films, hosting workshops for students to learn more, and holding screen-ings and analysis meetings. Last fall, the group produced two short films, but leadership restructuring and upcoming elections are codifying a new vision for Film Society this year.

The Native American Student Organization was started by Grayson Nelson, ’22, and Ella Powers, ’22, after they recognized there wasn’t a space on campus for “anybody to explore or express their indigeneity.”The Native American Cohort already exists on campus, but the group’s membership is predominantly faculty and staff. The club aims to provide a space for students specifically to come together, sharing and learning about an individual’s own Native American heritage or broader cultures, as well as raising awareness about issues facing native communities. The organization has already hosted a talk this semester, and has meetings planned for the year.

The Philosophy of Religion Club was founded this year by Alex Winant, ’23, drawing inspiration from a class he took on Buddhism. The club “aims for exploration, analysis and evaluation of the religions, philosophies and cultures that produced our modern world.” On the club’s agenda for this year: visit and volunteer at a local monastery, engage in meditations, and help members develop core philosophies and interpretations around religious and philosophical perspectives.

The African American / Black Alumni Mentorship Program is a new initiative, facilitated by the Office of Inclusion and Engagement (OIE), in which Black under-graduate students can be paired with Black graduates, either from the college or the law school. The goals of the program are to provide networking opportunities between current students and African-American/Black alumni and “enhance the personal, professional and academic development of current students of African descent.” Mentors and mentees meet repeatedly over the course of the term, helping build a relationship and offer guidance. For more information, contact Dean Tamara Futrell.

For more information on how to join the clubs in this article, contact club presidents, or visit the student organization directory on the university website.