Credit: Sophie Kroesche | Mustang News

As if virtual learning wasn’t difficult enough, socializing online has proven even more difficult for students. When Cal Poly announced in August 2020 that the majority of Fall quarter classes were online and that clubs were prohibited from meeting in person, club leaders scratched their heads trying to figure out what a fully virtual quarter would look like. Here’s what seventeen of Cal Poly’s student-run clubs came up with.

Performance Clubs

CP Salsa

“We have to be really creative with what lessons we were gonna do, because the issue with salsa is it’s a partner dance,” industrial engineering sophomore and CP Salsa president Gioia Huerta said. 

Cal Poly Salsa Club is a social and performance club that hosts lessons and provides entertainment for salsa dance. The club has split their online sessions between beginner lessons for the new members and intermediate lessons to keep the veteran club members engaged, utilizing both live Zoom lessons as well as YouTube sessions.

CP Ballroom | Courtesy

Ballroom Dancing

“Really all of us are friends first and then teammates. It comes in that order. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to initiate that friendship and continue to foster it through virtual times,” computer science junior and Ballroom Dancing president Lee Conway said.

Cal Poly Ballroom Dance Club is a competitive and social club that offers lessons and training in a variety of ballroom dance styles. This year, fully virtual practice lessons are taught by the club’s dance coordinators, involving some aspects of ballroom dance while still working around the partner-dependent parts.

Country Line Dancing

“It’s been kind of a nightmare getting to build any sort of comradery since we can’t meet each other in person,” mechanical engineering junior and Country Line Dancing Club secretary Jack Butler said.

The Cal Poly Country Line Dancing Club is a social and dance club designed to teach others about country line dancing. The club cut down its regular three hour practices to a split Zoom session of one hour of lesson and then one hour of “open dancing.” Like Salsa and Ballroom, Line Dancing has tried to teach lessons that don’t take up a lot of space and aren’t too complicated to do at home.

Smile and Nod

“What I really appreciate about the team is that everyone takes the club very seriously. It’s not something you just show up to. Everyone cares so much about building on our comedy and making sure the audience is seeing our best selves, because we all just love performing comedy,” communications sophomore and Smile and Nod president Kailey Zeiders said.

Smile and Nod is an improvised comedy team. One way the club is keeping the improv spirit alive is by using the camera function of Zoom during their workshops and practices. Those performing in a scene keep their cameras on so they can play off of each other better, while those in the audience have their cameras off. 

Although the club didn’t have auditions this quarter, Zeiders said she is hopeful they can hold auditions in Winter or Spring. 

Take It SLO | Courtesy

Take It SLO

“It’s gonna be more challenging having fun events or being able to spend time together, but we’re going to make it work because it’s worth it and we really do all love each other,” environmental management and protection junior and club president Kalea Conrad said. 

Take it SLO is one of Cal Poly’s acapella groups. Starting in January, the club will be holding virtual auditions for the group, which were pushed back due to the pandemic. Take It SLO, similar to other performance clubs, has decided to shorten practices while in the virtual format, and also to take on one-on-one practices in addition to sectional practices with each voice part. 

Engineering Competition Clubs


Hyperloop | Courtesy

“The size of the club lends to a stronger community because we’re all more connected to each of the individual projects on the team. We all have a greater stake in what’s going on because there are less people to have work delegated to,” mechanical engineering senior and club secretary Scott Brown said. 

The Cal Poly Hyperloop team works all year to create a design to compete in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, where 22 teams are selected to take their fully constructed Hyperloop pods to the SpaceX Headquarters. This year, design leads are having weekly virtual meetings with their teams and assigning the members manageable tasks, according to club president Connor Bush. Similar to other engineering clubs, the Hyperloop team is focusing on design this year, rather than splitting their work up between design, manufacturing and competition. 

Concrete Canoe

“That’s something we’ve really struggled with — getting volunteers interested in what we do without having the physical aspects of the project for them to be able to experience,” civil engineering junior and club president Michael Wang said. 

The Cal Poly Concrete Canoe team designs, manufactures and competes in an annual national competition with a canoe made of concrete. Along with Zoom meetings this year, the Concrete Canoe team is also using Discord this year for their project work. In person, the club would usually welcome newcomers to their workspace behind Building 13 which they refer to as “The Shed.” Without that in-person capability this quarter, freshmen and interested students can hop on the Discord server and join in on design work with the team. In the Spring, the team competed virtually with their designs, and is similarly competing virtually again in Spring 2021.

Cal Poly Racing | Courtesy

Cal Poly Racing

“It simply is just throwing yourself out there. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing viticulture, or chemistry, or you name it. If you are the least bit interested at doing anything racing-related, we take it all in. And that’s what we really pride ourselves on is that you can join,” mechanical engineering senior and formula team lead Jackson McFaul said.

Cal Poly Racing is an SAE Collegiate Design Series (CDS) team that designs, manufactures, and tests three innovative race vehicles. Where the club would usually have general meetings for each team, now they host one big general meeting open to all members of Cal Poly Racing. Like other engineering clubs, they use both Zoom and Discord for their meetings, with Zoom being more for social activities and Discord for work days. The team will be competing virtually this year, with a hope to get into the machine shops to manufacture in Winter quarter.

Steel Bridge

“It’s been super hard just because the programs that we use are not accessible to everyone and we don’t have the licenses to give them to everyone. If you don’t know what you’re doing in the first place, it’s hard to have the motivation and the patience to stick with it,” civil engineering senior and Steel Bridge President Fabian Leon said.

Cal Poly Steel Bridge is a competition team that works to plan, design, fabricate, construct and compete with a one tenth scale model steel bridge. The club is considering transitioning some of their work off-campus in the event that the students cannot return to the campus machine shops this school year. If an off-campus option isn’t viable, Leon said they will focus on trying to hand down the knowledge of older club members to newcomers to prepare them for the next year. 

Professional Clubs

Cal Poly Accounting Club (CPAC)

CPAC | Courtesy

“That first week when everything started happening, I would have one-on-ones with my board members where it was like, ‘This is crazy, we’re nervous, we don’t know what this is going to look like,’ to ‘We’re just going to figure it out, and we’re going to figure it out fast,’” business administration junior and CPAC president Luke Dubois said. 

CPAC is a College of Business affiliated club that provides professional and social events for students interested in accounting. Dubois said the structure of the club remains similar to that of regular years, with the primary difference being the virtual format. Some examples of events this year are virtual socials, online career fair workshops and a diversity, equity and inclusion conference. 

 Delta Sigma Pi

“Everyone’s been so good at keeping in touch and looking out for each other, because this is such a difficult time. And also just helping each other with school, career fair, interviewing for internships and full-time jobs, things like that,” business administration junior and club president Carolyn Lidster said.

Cal Polys’s Delta Sigma Pi chapter is a co-ed professional business fraternity that provides professional and social events for students in the College of Business. Lidster said the club had a successful online recruitment process this year, and that the process of being a new member is similar to previous years. A typical week includes one required Zoom chapter meeting, an executive committee meeting for executive members and a new member meeting for new recruits. 

NSBE | Courtesy

National Society of Black Engineers

“We started being really active on Instagram and doing fun, engaging activities. We did a ‘cooking face-off’ I guess you could say, where two members would go on Instagram Live and have set ingredients they had to use and create something out of that. It was kind of like NSBE Chopped,” architecture senior and NSBE PolyCultural Weekend Chair Chloe Wardrick said. 

Cal Poly’s NSBE chapter is a co-ed professional club that provides professional and social events for Black students interested in engineering. Wardrick said the club had a “pretty smooth” transition to a virtual format, with bi-weekly Zoom meetings that have kept a steady attendance. As a non-engineering student herself, Wardrick said NSBE isn’t exclusive to those studying engineering, but open to students who are interested in the industry, in gaining professional insight or in finding a community. 

Service Clubs

Colleges Against Cancer

“It’s definitely a fun atmosphere. Like yes, we have stuff to do, but it’s not a job, you’re not forced to do this and hopefully you’re having fun doing this because it’s for a good cause and because we’re all doing this together,” graphic communications senior and club president Haley Warner said. 

Colleges Against Cancer is a service club that promotes cancer awareness and provides a support system for those affected by cancer. Every year, the club’s biggest fundraising event is Relay for Life, a charity walk that raises money for the American Cancer Society. This year, Warner said the club’s committee is bigger than it’s ever been, presenting the challenge of managing more members alongside that of making Relay for Life a virtual event. 

Cal Poly Dance Marathon

Cal Poly Dance Marathon | Courtesy

“This is just such an awkward time because we’re thinking about ‘Okay, what are we doing?’ Because now it’s virtual and now we need to figure out where to start,” experience industry management senior and CPDM president Kailey Ridenour said. 

Cal Poly’s Dance Marathon is a service club that fundraises throughout the year and hosts a 12-hour dance marathon event where the proceeds go to the Santa Barbara Cottage Children’s Medical Center. The annual event will now be hosted through a streaming site, with similar aspects to it: performers, testimonies from “Miracle families” and fundraising activities are in the plans for the upcoming stream. 


“What community looks like now is we’ll have a weekly Zoom social where we’ll do things like game nights. If you use Zoom correctly, it can be an awesome tool for having social events,” computer science senior and club co-executive director Eric Newcomer said. 

Hack4Impact is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide software solutions to San Luis Obispo nonprofits. Newcomer said in the past, the community aspect was something that the club struggled with, since the focus of most members was always on their individual team projects. The pandemic presented a unique opportunity to focus on creating space to build the club’s comradery. 

Religious Clubs

MSA | Courtesy

Muslim Student Association

“The biggest question was ‘How do we keep members engaged while we’re virtual?’ and also figuring out how to track new members. The answer was: business as usual, but translate it to Zoom,” software engineering senior and MSA president Omar Shorab said. 

The Muslim Student Association aims to provide a supportive and inclusive community on campus for the diverse Muslim student population in SLO. Similar to professional clubs, the club’s structure looks similar to a regular year, with hour-long meetings featuring an intellectual or spiritual portion, and then a social portion. Shorab said he hopes the club doesn’t waste their platform — that the events they put on for members are beneficial and productive for them.  

Newman SLO

“This is precisely what makes the world turn for me, working with college students and helping them out with their life struggles, their faith, bringing them closer to God,” campus minister Karen Schindler said. 

The San Luis Obispo Newman Catholic Center provides a community for Catholic students of Cal Poly and Cuesta College. Catholic mass services were put on hold in Spring 2020, with a move for outdoor services in the summer and plans to have modified indoor services in the Fall. As far as the ministries and community aspect goes, the Center is taking those virtual, with Zoom Bible Studies and group gatherings available for interested members every week.

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