The Best of Clubs

Dartmouth College: a zealous collection of serial over-achievers, meticulous and sleep-deprived scholars, all cramming their schedules packed-full of campus activities and varying other involvements. Whether it’s out of sheer passion or solely to pad a resume, the College benefits altogether from the number of wonderful clubs and organizations that students have come together to create. From entertainment to academics and from athletics to politics, Dartmouth’s vast array of student groups can sometimes be hard to navigate, and so The Review has compiled a list of some of the best clubs on campus in a few different categories.
With such a wide variety of incredible organizations to choose from, establishing a common metric by which to evaluate them wasn’t easy. Firstly, we chose to further investigate those clubs that are centered on an interesting concept, something that sets them apart as unique and thus deserves some sort of special attention. Of course, there are some other requirements; each club has to have a well-sized, active member-base with dedicated and well-structured leadership. Also, we wanted to choose groups that are accessible to new members, so we tried to phase out those that were too overtly exclusive.

Altogether, our evaluation didn’t depend solely upon the club and its activities, but also the community that it fosters; while a club would not have been recognized solely for being an awesome group of people, it was a factor that we weighed in while making our decisions.
We decided upon four separate categories: advocacy and service, religious and community-oriented, academic and career-oriented, and athletic. We will name our selection for best club in each group independently, as all of the categories cater to a different audiences and thus it would be fruitless to make comparisons between them. Please note that we also decided to include organizations that are not formally recognized by The College in our deliberations; from the empathic perspective of The Review, we feel as though those clubs that have qualms with the administration do not deserve to be excluded on any grounds. Our selections are as follows:
Advocacy and Service
Our Pick: Sexual Assault Peer Alliance
With students becoming increasingly concerned with sexual violence on campus, focus is often placed on preventing assault. Prevention is certainly important, but people often struggle to find concrete ways to support survivors. Especially when vacuous statements of solidarity and inauthentic expressions of virtue are prevalent, true means of support can be hard to come by. According to The College’s 2017 Sexual Misconduct Survey, less than twenty percent of the student body feels like they understand the private and confidential resources available on campus for victims of sexual assault. Though campus resources aren’t perfect, some organizations are severely underutilized for the value they offer. The College’s Sexual Assault Peer Alliance (SAPA) is one of those organizations.
According to their page on the Dartmouth Health Service website, SAPA is “a group of Dartmouth Students invested in providing informed, empathic, and empowerment-based support to Dartmouth peers impacted by sexual and gender-based violence.” Students in SAPA (often called “SAPAs”) go through a rigorous training for 4 hours a week over the course of 8 weeks. After that’s completed, they are well equipped to understand and support peers affected by sexual assault. Though they are not medically or legally licensed, SAPAs can serve as a friendly face with special knowledge of campus resources, unconstrained by reporting obligations. Moreover, according to anonymous sources, SAPAs are held to a strict standard of internal confidentiality; they aren’t even allowed to speak in hypotheticals with other members about conversations they’ve had.
Unfortunately, SAPA is a grossly underused resource. According to an anonymous member, many SAPAs feel that they are not used to their full potential. This can be partially explained by the nature of sexual assault on campus: most instances of assault happen between acquaintances, making talking to peers and reaching out to advocates difficult for many victims. Especially when most SAPAs are undergraduates, some people might be uncomfortable talking to them about sensitive topics. Still, countless individuals have benefitted from the good people of SAPA in unseen ways. SAPA training increases the awareness and emotional intelligence of the student body as a whole, and friends of SAPAs are readily connected to some of the most critical resources on campus. SAPA gives caring and empathetic individuals a tangible way to help the community.
Hopefully, as the country’s preoccupation with gender-based violence increases, so too will The College’s ability to deal with the issue by real and concrete means. While some will still choose to promulgate inauthentic methods of helping survivors, SAPA will empower people to make real change through actionable knowledge. Thus, The Dartmouth Review recognizes SAPA as our choice for best community support, for making real change and developing community values in a time of big words and empty actions.
SAPAs have published contact info on the SAPA website (accessible through the Dartmouth Health Services Website); The Review urges any reader who would like to speak to a SAPA to do so through the aforementioned contacts, or by emailing SAPA@dartmouth.edu.
Religious & Community-Oriented
Our Pick: Christian Union
Dartmouth’s Christian Union, while not formally recognized by the administration, is undoubtedly one of The College’s largest and most intimate communities. The local branch of a national organization, the group’s main activities include organizing bible studies, which are taught by four full-time employees who live within the Hanover area. Though the teachings may be evidently Christian, the Union is open to students of all religions and creeds who are interested in learning more about biblical studies. The instructors are incredibly passionate, and yet nonetheless they are overwhelmingly accepting of other beliefs. Thus, students are wholly welcomed into the community entirely independently of their preexisting ideas, and so the full benefits of membership are most certainly not restricted to practicing Christians in any regard.
While bible studies are an integral part of Christian Union, the organization serves a much broader purpose for its members, principally concerning the community that it fosters. With frequent community meals and meetings, and with campus ministers who have been described to us as more like “second parents”, the forged connections are invaluable. We’ve heard stories of students living in ministers’ homes when they didn’t have housing, and others have described Christian Union as the most valuable group of student mentors they’ve interacted with on campus. One member insisted that the Union is perhaps The College’s the best social alternative to the Greek system, and while obviously those who are affiliated are welcomed as well, it remains one of best ways for younger students to interact with upperclassmen. Even for those completely uninvolved with CU, they offer free waffles on the steps of the Rockefeller Center every Friday night, a perfect snack for to accompany a late-night walk back from Webster Avenue.
Altogether, we acknowledge that picking a group that endorses a specific religion may seem somewhat exclusionary, and of course, it’s difficult to compare clubs which are focused around different faiths. Naturally, our selection of a Christian group by no means implies any sort of spiritual favoritism; CU’s specific efforts to promote inclusivity, alongside the personal testimonies that we’ve received, unequivocally lead us to recognize them as our choice for best religious organization, both in terms of values and activities.
Academic and Career Oriented
Our Pick: Dartmouth Investment and Philanthropy Program
The Dartmouth Investment and Philanthropy Program is certainly one of campus’ most unique programs; not only does DIPP provide invaluable hands-on experience in finance, but it serves an altruistic purpose as well, donating a considerable portion of its capital gains to on-campus charity groups. The club introduces students to the world of capital management with a $470,000 equity portfolio, and so undergraduates have the opportunity to delve into real-time, high-stakes investment with no requirement of past experience. The club began in 2007 when a group of alumni, who sought to assure that students have access to genuine hands-on financial training, donated the initial funding for the project, and they’ve been growing ever since. Nowadays, DIPP trains its members to be leaders in the realm of investment, and with its rigorous system of education and analysis, it’s no wonder that they consistently place members in some of the nation’s most sought-after finance positions.
New members join DIPP in the fall, and while no experience is required to start the process, the first fall term is very intensive. The workload typically consists of three major assignments, which are students’ opportunities to prove to the leadership that they’re truly motivated to be a member of the organization. DIPP strongly values hard work and tenacity in amongst its member-base, and so the process by nature isn’t easy. The group works actively differentiate those who are intrinsically motivated from the others, and so all of the members tend to be extraordinarily committed to the work they do.
The group meets weekly, where they hear pitches on which stocks to buy and sell. However, most of the work expected from students is research on their own time, either reviewing current holdings or probing the market for potential new investments. This intensive effort pays off; with a tight-knit alumni base, DIPP has a spectacular record of connecting students with graduates for internships and for future employment. Further, prominent alumni often come back as guest speakers, giving insight from the financial industry and talking about their experience in the business realm.
Altogether, the Dartmouth Investment and Philanthropy Program is a especially forward-thinking and highly motivated group of students. From our interactions, it’s been made clear that above all, they are incredibly grateful for the alumni that make such a program possible. It’s apparent that this is an integral part of what makes this organization so great; many other schools have similar programs, but most manage a tiny fraction of the portfolio. While DIPP may be slightly more exclusive than our other selections, they certainly are of an equal-opportunity mindset, and nonetheless they are an organization that ardently supports the many of the values that The Dartmouth Review cherishes. Thus, we wholeheartedly recognize them as our choice for the best career-oriented club on campus.
Athletic
Our Pick: Dartmouth Climbing Team
Dartmouth’s climbing team is a relatively young organization; founded only a few years back by a small group of ‘19s, the club had only a few dedicated members in its infancy. Since then, they have made a considerable effort to introduce new people to the sport, and consequently, the number of climbers has exploded. Now boasting over 30 active members and a strong cohort of returners, the team grew too large to even fit into the bouldering gym during practices. Subsequently, they now host daily trainings that alternate between rigorous and moderate, both of which are open to people of any skill-set or ability. Thus, the Climbing Team is perhaps one of campus’ most inclusive intercollegiate competition groups, dedicated to teaching new members with no prior experience while still training hard enough to snag the fifth-place spot at nationals last spring.
In addition to the relatively unique activity around which the club is centered, the climbing team has been described to us as one of campus’ most fulfilling communities. Between a plethora of social events and weekly team dinners, it’s a perfect means for freshmen to connect with upperclassmen mentors. Plus, it’s a relatively diverse group of people, especially concerning on-campus activities and academic interests. All else considered, the team is known campus-wide as an incredibly supportive group of people, and not just when it comes to climbing.
Team practices consist of everything from on-the-wall exercises to strength and conditioning workouts, and so it’s certainly a fun way for members to stay in shape. All of the hard work culminates a couple times a term at competitions across New England, which all members are encouraged to attend regardless of skill-level. The team has both world-class climbers and absolute beginners, which is a dynamic that would otherwise be incredibly intimidating if it weren’t properly addressed. Thus, the leadership works actively to ensure comfort and a strong sense of camaraderie amongst climbers, and it certainly pays off. Climbing connections have often been seen to lead to lasting friendships outside of the gym, and it’s a great way to get to know people from vastly different sides of campus. Thus, in terms of both activities and the community, and certainly out of sheer inclusivity, The Dartmouth Review is proud to name the Dartmouth Climbing Team as our pick for the best athletic club on campus.