EACH Semester, student orgs try to vie for the attention of UWGB students. There are posters, banners, and social media posts, but the biggest way to recruit new members is through an event called ORG smorg.
Many of the 132 student organizations choose to attend this event, recruit as many members as possible, and then they are virtually done with larger recruitment efforts. This year has been hard for many organizations since their sign-up sheets are on par with past years, but they are not getting the involvement expected.
MANY are called; few Show Up!
“Many students show interest in being involved, but few take action,” says Derek Flannery, VP of Networking for the UWGB’s Public Relations Student Society of America. Other org leaders recognize the same phenomenon; people sign up to be involved, but then never follow through.
“Registration for membership has increased,” Flannery added, “but attendance at events has decreased,” He believes “most students value their free time outside of class more than getting involved, and many people overestimate the expected time commitment.”
Ben Berndt, Executive Director of Communications for Residence Hall Apartment Association (RHAA), shares similar thoughts. “With 132 student organizations on-campus, students have a lot to choose from,” he said. “Students don’t really think they need to get involved in their first year. I think they understand the importance of academics, but I think they don’t understand when you’re filling out your resume and it says you joined an org your junior or senior year, employers will ask why you weren’t involved earlier.”
Looks GOOD on your Resume
According to Fortune.com, 82% of employers like to see student involvement on a resume, as well as dedication to their student organizations.
“[RHAA] has a handful of members who come to meetings, and even less that choose to volunteer, join [the RHAA] executive board and come to the programs. Even the people that show up, don’t always come to things other than the meetings.”
Senior COMM major Mackenzie May offered a few ideas that would get her involved. “I think more alumni coming to talk in the field of journalism. More conferences! Traveling to the National Broadcasters Museum or WBA Hall of Fame, things that are more applicable to the profession.” May said she would like to see, “Journalism base; more media base too” in a student org.
COMM Major Azure Hall is also not involved in student organizations and talks about what marketing and advertising techniques would influence her to commit to an Org. “I don’t know! Nothing really in particular. I follow the UWGB Theatre page, so if anything or anybody I know is highlighted, in it would catch my eye.”
After interviewing two students who are not involved on campus, conclusions could be made that there is a lack of awareness about events and opportunities provided by student organizations. John Landrum, Programming Coordinator for the Office of Student Life said last year’s numbers show an increase in involvement for all organizations. The numbers aren’t in for this year, but Landrum sees a lack of engagement and decreased involvement when speaking with various leaders.
His advice for student leaders is to, “lead from behind, and give [the members] meaningful things to do. People are not dying to come in and do grunt work for you.”
Landrum also suggests student leaders reach out and make friends with people they typically don’t talk to. He says students aren’t necessarily looking for specifics when they join an organization. “That might get you in the door for any given org, depending on what the topic is, but what happens to want to make that person come back is really what drives your membership,” he said. “I will always tell people it’s all about building relationships. If people aren’t having fun, they’re not going to come back.”
Landrum then went onto explain how students differ from year-to-year, and how this year’s group is “different.” He talks about how the generational differences make up a large portion of the change, but that it seems as if these differences are now happening every year rather than every 10 years. Landrum is also seeing many organizations move to a more online format, with fewer in-person meetings and when necessary, even online meetings. “Active engagement may not be increasing, because getting people to come to meetings is getting harder and harder.”
If the pattern continues, it will mean new changes for many organizations. Berndt said, “I hope [we are] growing; right now [RHAA is] at a low point. We are focusing so much time [on recruitment], and because of what we went through this year, I think more exec boards over the years are going to focus more on recruitment because [orgs have] seen this kind of lull.”
For the Public Relations Student Society of America, it could mean the end. “It’s possible that our chapter will no longer exist in 5-10 years if our registration declines any more than it already has,” Flannery said.
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