Student involvement for dummiesBy A.J. Collins | 03/03/2011 8:32pm
While this year’s SGA campaign may not be as visible as in years past, with chalking and stickers notably absent, it has still focused the attention of the student body yet again on the SGA and its role in campus life. However, it is important to remember that there are multiple paths to student involvement and leadership, and the SGA is only one part of a much larger campus community.
Not every student has the time, resources or interest in launching a campaign for student senate, or in taking on vested political interests in a race for an executive office. Fortunately, there are other venues for students to get involved, and, in some ways, do more to drive campus forward.
Within the Honors College, the Honors College Assembly gives students an outlet to network with other Honors students, attend events and serve in important leadership capacities. The Honors College also offers service experiences in the Tuscaloosa area. Finally, Honors College Ambassadors serve a vital function in recruiting new and ambitious students to come to the University and play a role in improving campus life.
Recent columns in this newspaper have decried the lack of diversity in the Honors College. That is all the more reason for students of all backgrounds to research the requirements for admission to the college, learn about the opportunities the Honors College offers, and, if it seems appealing, send in an application, join. Making the Honors College more diverse begins with convincing more students to become involved.
Outside of the Honors College, there are numerous programs with which all students can become involved. The Blackburn Institute recently completed its nomination process for next year. The organization gives students the opportunity to learn more about public policy and the state of Alabama, preparing them for leadership roles that can benefit the state. It also connects a diverse group of student leaders with one another, and with alumni and advisory board members who are already putting their education to use in various capacities throughout Alabama.
Greek organizations offer students the opportunity to make incredible social connections and have great college experiences. While there are still major concerns associated with some of our chapters, new fraternities and sororities, like the recently re-established Sigma Phi Epsilon and Chi Phi and the soon to arrive Delta Gamma, offer a fulfilling greek experience for our growing student body. Other fraternities and sororities, like Lambda Sigma Phi, Zeta Beta Tau, Alpha Delta Chi and Sigma Delta Tau offer students the opportunity to tailor their greek experience to their religious beliefs. Within the greek system, there are numerous leadership opportunities on IFC, NPHC and Panhellenic, and other opportunities for involvement with groups like Greeks for T.I.D.E., which is working to create a more inclusive community.
For politically active students, College Democrats and College Republicans continue to connect students to the political process, and give them opportunities to take active roles in political campaigns.
On campus residents can become active in improving on-campus living through the Residence Hall Association. Within each college, there are numerous professional organizations, like Alpha Kappa Psi in business and Theta Tau in engineering.
Students with a passion for the University may want to consider applying for Capstone Men and Women next year to become official ambassadors for the University. Capstone Men and Women give tours to high school students considering the University, and are often the first representatives of the University to interact with potential recruits. Similarly, University Stewards work to recruit students, often on a more personal, intimate basis by taking students to lunch.
There are also religious groups like Campus Crusades, the Navigators, RUF, UnAshamed, the Campus Baha’i Association, or, for students who aren’t religious, Alabama Atheists and Agnostics. If you believe in it, chances are that we have it.
Several of my friends have found their home in student media, whether at The Crimson White, the Corolla or 90.7 The Capstone. Student media offers students a powerful voice, and prepares them for future careers in management, public relations, journalism and much more.
Even the SGA offers students the opportunity to get involved without having to run a campaign; every SGA officer needs hardworking and thoughtful staff members to advance their projects. Thanks to the reforms advanced by the James Fowler administration, the SGA is including a more diverse group of students on its staff than ever before. Applications to serve on SGA committees or as a director will be available shortly after the elections, and any student who wants to have a meaningful role in student government should apply.
So, don’t just think about the SGA this campaign season. Instead, view the campaign as a promotion for the broad world of student involvement that exists on this campus, find your niche, and become a part of the community we call the Capstone.
A.J. Collins is a sophomore majoring in economics and math.