Nazareth College and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have more in common than the average Muggle—or non-magical person—might think. Both have beautiful grounds, four distinct academic divisions, and a nearby village watering hole. And both institutions offer students the opportunity to pursue their special interests with other like-minded students on campus.
Although Nazareth doesn’t yet have its own chapter of S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare), the College’s student government Undergraduate Association offers the choice of more than 50 other groups, which provide many of the campus community’s social, educational, recreational, cultural, and spiritual activities.
But what do students do when their specific area of interest isn’t represented by an existing club? Often these students will take the initiative and form a new club.
Such was the case with the UA’s most recent addition: the Ministry of Magic, a club devoted to the fictionalized world of Harry Potter, created by J.K. Rowling. The club was founded by three freshmen: Francis Grunfeld ’15, president; Dylan Loucks ’15, vice president; and Sandra Simmons ’15, treasurer (or, respectively, the Minister of Magic, Junior Assistant to the Minister, and Head Goblin).
“We tried screening A Very Potter Musical, a Harry Potter-inspired stage play that became a video sensation on YouTube,” says Simmons. “Unfortunately, the residential life area director explained that we couldn’t host the showing because we weren’t an official club.” The trio promptly applied for club status, and although final paperwork was pending, the UA allowed the Ministry of Magic to host its first event, a screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One.
The Ministry’s initial meetings, which featured a Sorting Hat-inspired quiz, revealed widespread student interest in the world of Harry Potter. “Nazareth is a small campus, and yet we found more than enough students who were interested in participating,” says Simmons.
The Ministry wisely allied itself with the College’s Quidditch team. In Rowling’s series, Quidditch is the wizarding world’s most popular sport, sort of like soccer played on flying broomsticks.
Nazareth’s team was founded in summer 2011 by Lauren Berger ’12, the president of Nazareth’s Lambda Association and the opinions editor for the student newspaper The Gleaner. “I started the team by creating a Facebook fan page in mid-July,” explains Berger. “The page got approximately 80 ‘likes’ the first day, so I began searching online for other college Quidditch teams and ways to modify the sport for those of us unable to ride on flying brooms.”
Berger’s research revealed that the sport is popular with college students across the region (RIT and MCC have teams) as well as the nation. In fact, the fifth annual Quidditch World Cup was held in November 2011 on Randall’s Island in New York City. This annual intercollegiate sporting event features 100 teams vying for the coveted position of best Quidditch team.
Nazareth’s team practices twice a week, with the goal of competing in next year’s Quidditch World Cup. Berger is optimistic, saying, “The team is mostly composed of freshman, which is exciting because they will continue the sport after I graduate.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic plans to expand its campus-wide offerings to include other Harry Potter-inspired events, such as a Yule Ball and a Horcrux scavenger hunt. “I feel lucky to go to a school that allows and encourages freshmen to explore, express, and share their passion with other Naz students,” says Simmons. “Finding and celebrating common interests with others—be it a cause, a religion, a sport, or a book—is part of what college is all about.”