With students having a wide range of interests, starting new organizations at USC is fairly common, but the process of doing so could look very different this semester. Sophomores Tate Schmergel and Kat Barden started working on USC’s MASH Magazine back in April. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two started the organization remotely but have since gained significant interest from their fellow cohort.
Schmergel said he knew about MASH Magazine because he had friends at Michigan who were a part of the organization and reached out to them to start a USC version. He and Barden said that they wanted to use similar branding and marketing but focus much more on diversity and inclusion because they felt that was important to USC.
USC MASH started after Schmergel and Barden made a commitment to start something that they were truly passionate about, and to create a community where they felt they would have a lasting impact.
“We wanted it to be a space for people who are genuinely like-minded and passionate about something who could meet people that are the same way,” said Barden. “We wanted it to feel like more of a creative community that really embraced the fact that everyone is so spread out across different majors.”
Starting a new club or organization can be difficult as it is, but with the fall semester being remote, Schmergel and Barden faced a new set of challenges as far as recruiting and outreach. For example, USC MASH is still in the process of becoming affiliated with the university and was not part of this semester’s virtual club fair.
Due to this, social media became the primary mode of communication and outreach for the organization in which the past couple of months consisted of reaching out to people through social media to see if they would be interested in joining.
However, despite facing these initial uncertainties, they were surprised when over 50 people applied for executive positions on their six different teams.
“We have people in Annenberg, Marshall, Roski, and Dornsife. So many different people are represented already, so it’s been a really cool experience and it’s been received really well which is something we didn’t expect at all,” said Barden.
The diversity among the organization is something that Schmergel and Barden emphasized frequently and noted that in recruiting they tried to reach out to as many people as possible to include students from all backgrounds.
“Our foundation really was structured fundamentally in diversity, and not in a way that we’re hand selecting people who are intentionally diverse,” said Schmergel. “As we started to create our team, we were cognizant of the fact that everyone would be reaching out to different communities and everyone had different friend groups and things like that. So thus far, we’ve had a lot of interest just because we’ve touched so many different communities.”
They both shared that having gained so much interest even with people they don’t know personally who want to join the organization has been one of the most rewarding experiences thus far and are excited for the future of USC MASH.
They are aiming to release their first edition on Nov. 1 and because of the close proximity to the election, the theme will be “Fashion as a Political Platform.” There are also plans to hopefully release a second edition by the end of 2020 as well.
When asked about advice for starting an organization for students who might be hesitant given the circumstances right now, both Schmergel and Barden agreed that the outcomes of taking the risk make it so worthwhile.
“The more energy and time you put into your interests, the more fulfilled you’ll feel, the more people you’ll meet, the more outreach you’ll have, and just an overall better experience will come out of that,” said Schmergel. “Just go for it. Find your interests, find what you want to do because it’s going to better your experience as a whole.”