On February 15, 2024, UBC Okanagan’s University Centre (UNC) Ballroom was abuzz with excitement as students, faculty, and community members gathered for the Smart Showcase event. Organized by the Students’ Union Okanagan (SUO)’s Vice President-External with the Campaigns Committee, the event aimed to celebrate the successes of various student initiatives while promoting community engagement and awareness of important issues such as sustainability and mental well-being. Several student bodies and clubs working in the fields of sustainability, student security, and mental well-being, like Third Space Charity; Pantry; the Cancer Research Society; the Innovate, Design, Sustain (IDS) Club; Seamless Fashion Club, Glow N Grow Club; the Sex Positivity Centre; and The Phoenix News were present at the event.

Abby Newman, a Student at Large for the Campaigns Committee, spoke passionately about the event's purpose, emphasizing the importance of giving back to those who have supported student initiatives over the past six months. "We couldn't have achieved this level of success without the dedication of our students," she remarked. "And it's important to recognize and celebrate their contributions."

The event welcomed community members from all across Kelowna, reflecting the university's commitment to addressing community-wide issues such as reducing food waste emissions. News outlets such as Castanet and Global News were in attendance, highlighting the significance of the event within the broader community.

Newman shared her journey of involvement with the Campaigns Committee, saying:

“My role came at an interesting time. I lost the by-election, and thankfully Lakshay saw my potential, and my drive and passion for student initiatives like this, and [he] invited me to be on the committee. I just volunteered one day as a former board member, and he was like, “Hey, do you want to continue doing this, engaging with students?’ And I was like, ‘Opportunity to talk? Say less.’”

“So my job is just looking at different engagement initiatives and working with the team on improving student engagement,” she continued. “We started tabling during the first semester, but that’s not a very sustainable way; it is a lot of effort between me and Kelly to do that, and we noticed people weren’t keen on volunteering, so we are finding different ways to get the community involved. We hosted the Nourish Mind and Body Event with Pantry, again, just a fun little initiative that we started that went super well for both us and Pantry. This event is also an engagement effort. We have had around 150 students come through our door, sign up for our raffles and participate. We’ve also introduced the passport system, so basically, visiting booths and collecting signatures can make you eligible to win gift cards, and the success of it is great to see!”

In the spirit of the event, The Phoenix spoke to the clubs present at the event, providing them with an opportunity to highlight their important work. First, we talked to Third Space Charity, which offers vital counselling support for young adults aged 18–29 in the Okanagan region. With offices both on-campus and online, Third Space aims to provide accessible mental health services to young adults, regardless of their student status at UBCO, with applications available on their website. Nina, a Masters student interning with the charity, shared: 

“Today has definitely been helpful in spreading awareness. We’ve had students come up to the booth who have never heard of us, and some that have, and have used our services, so we have just been able to connect with young adults and share what our services are about, explain the application process, and answer any questions that they have.”

Next, we spoke to the Seamless Fashion Club, which promotes inclusivity and community through fashion, style, and culture. The club's initiatives focus on sustainable fashion practices while fostering friendships and connections among students with diverse backgrounds and styles.

Kassia, the club’s Vice President of Finance and Strategy, explained, “We have an initiative called Closet. It’s like a community clothing initiative where clothes are free for students to take, and you can also donate if you want. This event has helped us raise awareness and tell people that, hey, if you want a resource that gets you free clothes on campus, or want to donate, or have event ideas, we’re here, and there are no restrictions.”

Numerous other clubs and organizations doing amazing work were present at the event. Their Instagram pages are the best place to follow their work and get updates. 

Overall, the Smart Showcase event served as a testament to the dedication and passion of UBCO students in addressing pressing issues facing both the campus and the broader community. By highlighting achievements and promoting engagement, the event underscored the university's commitment to creating a positive impact both locally and beyond.