By Tom Quach
Building upon its viral momentum and operational feedback, Club Cardinal released its 2.0 update on Sept. 14, adding new possibilities for Stanford community engagement onto the platform targeting students, professors and alumni.
Since its Aug. 1 launch, new visitors could create unique mini avatars and were free to roam around different parts of campus, striking up digital conversations with other avatars, or joining Zoom rooms encoded into every location within the Club Cardinal map.
The 2.0 update introduced an array of new resources, functionalities and activities. Two new locations have appeared: the Windhover Contemplative Center, which will be used for recurring meditation and yoga sessions, and a Post Office. A key highlight of the Post Office is that “people can send cards to other users on the site, including anonymous cards,” co-founder WenXin Dong ’23 said.
Other significant additions include the ability to add friends to one’s FriendsList, go LIVE using the user’s Zoom link, play the Mental Math and the Cardinal Chronicle Storytelling minigames that have arisen around the virtual campus, and post or view event notices on interactive Bulletin Boards appearing in each location.
Erik Rozi ’24 praised the nontraditional connection Club Cardinal offers. “A group of frosh and I went on a Zoom in Club Cardinal,” he said. “Two other frosh randomly joined, and now we are all super close.”
Tony Chang ’24 added that, “The new update is nice, and I enjoy the various games that have built a sense of community for us.”
Abby Leyva ’24 added that based on her experiences, the minigames seem to “increase the amount of time one spends on Club Cardinal.”
Co-founder Michelle Qin ’23 said that the founding team were all “pleasantly surprised to see the overwhelmingly positive response from the community,” adding that, “to truly see the impact that we’ve been able to have has really been so meaningful for us.”
According to the team, over 4,280 individual accounts from across 66 countries have been created on Club Cardinal as of Sept. 23, with an average of 200 to 500 daily visitors. “If there’s a bunch of events going on during the day like when we had Band Run,” co-founder Sreya Halder ’23 said, the site could see as many as 1000 daily visitors.
NSO 2020 social events run on Club Cardinal
The sustained attention that Club Cardinal received as the 2020-21 school year commenced attracted the eyes of New Student Orientation (NSO) Coordinators, who were searching for outlets that would allow freshmen to connect during the online fall quarter. NSO Coordinator Isaac Garcia ’22, said that the new platform was well suited for hosting hangout events throughout NSO due to its ability to handle many people. He also emphasized Club Cardinal’s inclusiveness of students from all backgrounds.
“We prioritized accessibility and a platform like Club Cardinal was already set up so that all students could sign in,” Garcia said. “Then, we chose to add late programming that was flexible with a bunch of time zones.”
The coordinators hosted several afternoon to evening social sessions using Club Cardinal’s Zoom room functionality, including Speedfriending, Kahoot!, Yoga, Beverage and Chill, Netflix Parties, Origami and mini Hackathons.
Victoria Hart ’22, a fellow orientation coordinator, said that she hopes that through Club Cardinal, they achieved their central goal of “[creating] a safe space to relax. As a Stanford student, you’re allowed to chill and take a Buzzfeed quiz, laugh and connect with others in organic or as organic as possible ways.”
Word of Club Cardinal has even reached the parent community.
“When writing an article for our Parents’ Club newsletter on resources to enhance the Stanford Undergrad Fall experience, several students recommended Club Cardinal,” Mary Rose Theis, president of Stanford’s Parents Club, wrote in a statement to The Daily. “So many are looking for ways to make meaningful connections, and Club Cardinal is a fun way to fill a real need this year.”
A professor’s perspective on Club Cardinal’s progress
Chemistry professor Dr. Jennifer Schwartz Ph.D. ’08 said that Club Cardinal has created “lemonade out of lemons” by reaching out to the Stanford community and providing additional resources for social engagement during the time the student body and faculty need it the most. Though everyone yearns to return to campus as soon as possible, Schwartz finds comfort in knowing that Club Cardinal relieves many worries about not physically being on campus.
“We are all missing spontaneous meetups right now, so it is nice that there is this creative solution out there,” Schwartz said.
She recommended Club Cardinal to her classes as one option to form study groups, noting that “a commonplace for people to meet is so valuable to our social and emotional needs as well as our learning needs.”
Applauding the platform’s creativity and ingenuity, Schwartz said, “we may not be able to immediately change COVID or how fast the vaccine gets here right now, but we can change the way we deal with this moment in time.”
Expansion of Club Cardinal
During its one-month 1.0 stage, Club Cardinal hosted special guest speakers and countless social events all around the map locations. From visits from Psychology Professor Emeritus Phillip Zimbardo (head of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment) to Katherine Waissbluth ’22 ( known as ‘The Kath Path’ on YouTube), these virtual events stretched from Club Cardinal’s animated replication of Stanford’s famed Memorial Church to as far as The Dish.
As the Club Cardinal team works toward future improvements and additions, they are also coordinating with several universities across the country to set up a public site for people to access outside of just Stanford.
“We hope to see more engagement between students of different schools, so you might be able to visit other campuses,” Halder said.
As Qin and the other co-founders continue to build upon their platform, she hopes that “for the future, [Club Cardinal] will essentially be the online space that people can always visit and have that community, so that these kinds of interactions will continue to happen.”