Newest Clubs Highlight Academics, Activism and Art


Newest Clubs Highlight Academics, Activism and Art

When it comes to keeping busy outside of the classroom, there’s endless opportunity for students at SUNY Cortland.

The proof can be found in projects supported by the Undergraduate Research Council, service work coordinated by the Institute for Civic Engagement and the many fitness-related activities taking place in the Student Life Center.

On top of all that, more than 70 student clubs and organizations cater to a variety of passions and interests — from writing, singing and creating artwork, to politics, religion and culture, to dozens of other topics.

Early in each semester, the College’s Student Club Fair invites all new and returning students to Corey Union. The intention is to showcase the many different groups that may call out to students who share specific interest, whether it’s rooted in an academic major or a potential hobby.

Every year, new clubs join a growing list thanks to the ambitious students who are willing to start them. Some of SUNY Cortland’s newest groups are highlighted below.

Fashion Club

Gabriel Bowen’s dream to become a fashion designer was the result of two hobbies: collecting sneakers and giving back to his community.

The sophomore graphic design and digital media major grew up in a military family and spent his high school years living in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He developed skills in hand-painting sneakers, collected close to 400 pairs of previously used shoes and donated his customized work back to people who needed it.

“When I got to Cortland, I figured that there had to be other people who shared my love for fashion,’” Bowen said. “Students might be studying criminology, but they might also have an interest in fashion.”

Fashion Club has attracted the interest of approximately 50 students. Bowen said the club plans to offer workshops on topics such as starting a small business, while collaborating with other student groups that include Black Student Union, Caribbean Student Association and Know Your Roots. He also hopes to lend his talents to the Cultural Council of Cortland County and its efforts aimed at reusable clothing.

Graphic Design Club

The Graphic Design Club was founded as a practical, hands-on outlet for students within the major.

“Our main goal is work with other clubs, helping them out with things like fliers and t-shirt designs,” said Ross Cohen, a junior graphic design and digital media major from Plainview, N.Y.

Cohen has seen the value of collaborative experience firsthand by working on social media graphics for several teams in the College’s Athletics Department. Before establishing the club, Cohen and Alexander Demeri, the group’s vice president, lent their talents to the Cortland Writers Association.

“We figured we could do more with a club rather than just the two of us,” Cohen said, noting that membership has grown to include around 15 students.

The club hopes to partner with the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), which would provide access to a larger professional network for club members. They also hope to bring in guest speakers to lead workshops and critique student work.

“We want to be producing,” Cohen said. “We want to help people.”

Leaders for Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP)

This club invites students who have an interest in learning more about the potentially simple ways to protect the environment. LEAP also was born thanks to a chance encounter.

Rebecca Gonzalez, the club’s president, overheard a fellow student expressing a need for a campus organization for vegans. That student, Elizabeth Slusarz, became the club’s vice president.

“I thought, ‘Let’s do this,’” said Gonzalez, a junior therapeutic recreation major from Lindenhurst, N.Y. “I never had talked to her before and I’m not a vegan myself, but I’m all for protecting the environment.”

LEAP is devoted to causes such as zero-waste living and animal rights. The group already has screened a documentary and has a potted plant workshop planned for Earth Day on Monday, April 22.

“Don’t be scared by the name or the stereotypes,” Gonzalez said. “You don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian. Just come with an open mind to learn something new and maybe change a few things in your everyday life that can help the environment.”

Pre-Dental Club

Amber Gratereaux has many of the same interests as fellow members of the Pre-Dental Club, with one catch. Gratereaux, the group’s president, doesn’t want to be a dentist; she wants to assist her classmates who have dental school aspirations.

Gratereaux started as a biology major with the goal of becoming an orthodontist. But once she saw the importance of services dedicated to academic advisement and career outcomes, her plan shifted. She hopes to eventually work in a student affairs-related role for a dental school.

“I want to help people figure out their path and how to get there,” said the junior sociology major from Goshen, N.Y.

The club’s goal is to expose SUNY Cortland undergraduates to other classmates who share a similar interest in dental school, while also connecting them with helpful resources on and off campus. So far, more than a dozen students have expressed interest.

“There’s this community of students interested in dental, and it’s bigger than most people think,” said Gratereaux. “The club provides a way of meeting those people without having to search on your own.”

Meetings take place every two weeks. Students discuss potential schools, admissions requirements and ways to tackle difficult questions on the Dental Admission Test (DAT). They plan to learn from dentists, current dental school students and other professionals with knowledge about the field.

“We want to get knowledge directly from the source and bring it to members,” Gratereaux said. “We throw in some fun wisdom teeth videos sometimes too.”


As a high school student in Queens, Gia Greenidge found meaning in her school’s local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The organization introduced her to important social justice issues, she said.

“I thought Cortland should have an NAACP group as well,” said Greenidge, a sophomore psychology major.

SUNY Cortland NAACP has attracted almost 40 members to its earliest meetings, with students gathering to discuss difficult topics such as the daily struggles facing the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented groups. They’re planning a banquet that aligns with the NAACP Image Awards in late March as well as a July trip to Detroit for the 110th NAACP National Convention.

“I found my voice through the NAACP,” Greenidge said. “Before I joined, I was quiet. I didn’t know how to vocalize or advocate for social justice issues. But I learned to ask important questions like, ‘What’s happening? Why is it happening? And if something’s wrong, how can I change it?’”