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Student organizations: All work, all play

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The college experience isn’t complete without student orgs. They’re a great way to make friends and explore interests; this is especially true for freshman, commuters, and transfer students. UIS hosts a mind-boggling number of cliques, clubs, and teams, most of which are entirely run by students. From knitting to robotics, our campus appeals to a huge range of skills and hobbies.

Academic clubs, like history and English, let you learn more about your teachers and classmates; you may net better grades and jobs as a result. Diversity clubs, like the Queer-Straight Alliance and the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), provide a vital service to our school, helping students of all backgrounds feel safe and welcome. While we’re on the subject of student activism, the Campus Democrats and Republicans, Model UN, and the Radical Student Union must all be mentioned. UIS encourages all students to express their views, and clubs make a perfect megaphone.

If you don’t want to mix homework with politics, try something more casual; athletic, board, and video games are all represented. If you’re as busy and clumsy as me, you’ll find extramural sports – like dodgeball, volleyball, and squash – very appealing. Less traditional athletes can check out League of Legends at UIS, which hosts tournaments with prizes. If competition isn’t your thing, don’t sweat it. We’ve got clubs dedicated to comics, cartoons, and the consumption of snacks; who can resist?

Before you get too excited, let’s talk about commitment. Starting and managing a student org is hard work; even school-sponsored clubs have trouble recruiting and keeping new members. That’s assuming you can get enough student interest. As the English club president, I can say from experience: it hurts when people only show up for free pizza and t-shirts. Since UIS is a small, commuter-based school, it’s also tough to plan meetings and events. Word to the wise: Thursday is the sweet spot. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are class-heavy, and few students stick around for the weekend.

New students tend to get over-involved, signing up with four to fourteen different student orgs. This can be a great way to learn about UIS, but in time, you’ll want to rethink your priorities. Find the clubs which suit your interests best, and try to make time for their meetings and events. If you build trust with your leaders and members, you’ll have a much more satisfying experience. My clubs have been great résumé–builders, making me more punctual, dependable, and sociable. They’ve introduced me to some of my nearest and dearest friends, and reminded me of what I’m great at.

If you want to start your own club, you’ll need to do a little work before the fun and games begin. Student orgs need at least four officers, a faculty sponsor, and a well-planned budget. You’ll also need to contact the Student Life office, which has an excellent guide for beginners: http://www.uis.edu/studentlife/organizations/index.html.

Be prepared for weekly meetings and emails; be also prepared for lots of paperwork and a few paper cuts. It’s more than worth it.

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