By Kathryn Hill
Alumna, American Military University
In a normal pre-COVID world, most of us would go to work, the grocery store or even right next door every day in order to interact with other people. But due to COVID-19 lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing, it has become very difficult to have social interactions with our families, friends, and coworkers. Luckily, the university has many different virtual student organizations for extracurricular activities.
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Now, you may ask yourself, “Why would I want to add even more activity to my already crazy schedule?” But there are several reasons to participate in extracurricular activities through the university’s student organizations: personal development, social support, professional development, and civic engagement and service learning.
One benefit of participating in extracurricular student organizations is personal development. Joining a student organization allows you to strengthen your interpersonal skills by interacting with other people from different backgrounds, gaining exposure to many opinions and points of view.
Joining student organizations can even add to your current interests and hobbies. For example, joining the R.E.A.D. Book Club not only allowed me to practice my hobby of reading, I’ve explored authors and genres I wouldn’t normally read.
Student organizations allow us to increase our confidence through sharing our experiences and increasing our knowledge about specific topics. For example, after reading a book about the struggles of dealing with depression, one of our book club members shared a story about her personal ordeal with depression. She was able to help those who have never experienced depression better understand the effects it can have.
Becoming an organization’s officer can enhances your leadership skills by providing opportunities to plan, coordinate, and carry out projects, agendas, and meetings. This year, as club president, I planned content and organized presenters for our annual Lunch and Learn webinar, coordinated our annual Random Acts of Reading service project, and led our live monthly club meetings, to name just a few of the many activities for which organization leaders are responsible.
One of the biggest benefits of student organizations is the social support and friendships we develop with other members. Joining a student organization provides you with an opportunity to meet new people — such as other students, staff, faculty, and alumni — and form friendships. I have met some of my best friends by joining the book club.
The network of contacts that you can make though student organizations provide you with an outlet to share your own achievements and accomplishments, as well as support and motivate other members. For example, the R.E.A.D. Book Club offers reading challenges. Each year, club members set a reading goal for themselves.
Even though the club members knew how many books they wanted to read, they had a hard time figuring out which books. So, at the beginning of the year, I shared a reading challenge with various reading prompts such as “a book with a number in the title” to guide members toward specific books.
In addition to providing social support, student organizations provide professional support through networking and learning practical applications of shared personal interests. Members of the R.E.A.D. Book Club obviously love to read, and club members as well as guest authors sponsored by the club share their professional advice and experience concerning publishing, writing strategies, and even contacts.
Also, club officers use their experience in their everyday jobs by applying some of the same leadership methods used to run the club. Some club members have even been inspired by fellow members to pursue advanced degrees.
Civic Engagement and Service Learning
Student organizations give us new methods of serving our local and international communities. For example, in the R.E.A.D. Book Club, members can tell each other about charities that are important to them. The club has then donated funds or time by participating in the services provided by those organizations.
For example, one of the club projects this year involved donating books, removing damaged books, and cleaning up the area around a local Little Free Library. I didn’t even know Little Free Libraries existed until I heard about them from a fellow club member!
Student Organizations Fulfill the Need for Personal Connections
In this trying time, when we are being cautioned about standing too close to the person next to us, connecting on a personal level is more important than ever. Student organizations provide a useful platform for us to make these social connections.
By joining a student organization, you are more likely to gain friendships and social support, which help you to create personal and professional networks, gain practical experience, and develop a better appreciation for your community. Plus, the extracurricular activities of student organizations are just plain fun!