By Ashlyn Offenback
Starting a new student organization at LaGrange College is not as challenging as some students might think. Furthermore, whether students start a new organization or join one, research suggests that campus involvement enhances student outcomes in higher education. According to Katie Mosley, LaGrange College’s Director of Student Engagement, “It only takes one person to start an organization.”
A new club at LaGrange College begins with that student, an idea, and Katie Mosley’s Student Organization Registration Packet. Katie Mosley says that within any student organization “a full-time professional faculty or staff member must be willing to support your group.” The organization’s leader must understand the regulations within the student handbook, including policies on drugs and alcohol, sexual harassment, violence, and hazing. The process ensures the student is pursuing a safe organization on campus grounds. The student organization’s president is responsible for assuring that every member follows the policies and guidelines. If a member does not wish to follow these guidelines, the president should consider removing the group member from the organization.
Informing students of the new club may be tricky, but Katie Mosley says, “Getting the word out helps.” Creating a boilerplate email for prospective group members is important so the leader can efficiently send information. Furthermore, student leaders must arrange activities andevents, organize an election of officers, and produce a list of all group participants.
In terms of funding, Mosley recommends that students access the Student Organization Assistance Program, or SOAP. Student leaders can use these funds for advertising, group activities, and refreshments for group meetings. Mosely says, “Funds are available through the SOAP program for up to $500.00.”
According to Dr. Marc Shook, Vice President of Student Engagement and Dean of Students, students who get involved have an advantage over those who do not. “When I think about this generation of college students,” he says, “I am pushing involvement because I want them to build people skills.” Getting involved will also help students expand and develop new hobbies and interests they may never have thought they would enjoy.
Joining an organization is one of the most crucial things you can do
Dean Shook points to Dr. Astin’s Developmental Theory for a Higher Education, which includes research suggesting that students who are more involved in clubs and organizations will be more successful. For example, students will develop better communication skills, build friendships, and prepare themselves for future engagements within the work force. Shook can describes Dr. Astin’s work as “very simple in its idea.”
He elaborates, “The concept is, that the more involved a college student is, the greater outcome you will have.”
Black Girl Magic (BGM) is an example of a new student organization that has seen these greater outcomes. BGM focuses on the empowerment of women, but the group is not just for women of color. According to the BGM President, Kayla White, “We wanted to make a safe place for minority women to get together and construct events to do together without fear.”
BGM has gone through the expansion of their organization by entrusting Brandy Cameron, a counselor at LaGrange College, as their faculty sponsor. The organization has also been successful in its messaging and recruitment. White says, “We got people to join by word of mouth and by posting fliers around campus to get our name out there.” In the past year, BGM has increased membership from thirteen people to thirty-one.
Like Kayla White and the new members of BGM, students should get involved with activities, start new clubs, and volunteer within their communities. These practices will develop leadership skills, communication skills, and relationships with like-minded students. “Starting something is helping students get involved, especially those who have the same interests,” Kayla White states.
According to Dean Shook, “Joining an organization is one of the most crucial things you can do.”