Growing a Student Organization from the Bottom Up

By Laura Colantonio, Trending Editor

Seton Hall is a diverse community of over 150 student organizations. This number grows as students continue to share their passions with one another by starting a club on campus and by pursuing a vision. Organizations vary in their purpose but all have the commonality of desiring to bring students together through shared interest.

As a senior student, who attended all four years at Seton Hall University, I have found myself getting involved in a wide array of student organizations, including but not limited to Photography Club and The Stillman Exchange. Through long-lasting commitment to these clubs, I have found myself getting involved in leadership.

For Photography Club, in specific, I became a member of the Executive Board quickly. During my first two years on the Executive Board, I was the club’s Treasurer and I have been President since. My first year with Photography Club was also its first year as a trial organization. Therefore, I have grown with the club and through testing various techniques to engage members, new and old, we have found our own version of success.

While success may appear differently depending on the category of student organization, I have found that there are some key takeaways that have contributed to our accomplishments that can apply to any club.

To start, mixing up the meeting style is essential to appeal to all sorts of members. It is important to recognize that the same structure can become all too repetitive sometimes. Photography Club has general meetings bi-weekly in a classroom where we share the club’s latest news, recent member photographs, and engage in an interactive activity. This structure may be like that of many clubs, but member retention is often due to what we do outside of these meetings. During the “off weeks” of these formal meetings, we meet informally as friends to go on photography outings together.

These trips are what allow us to get to know each other better. I find that large formal meetings can feel overwhelming and that it is difficult for many to engage if not already familiar members. In addition to the formal meetings and informal trips, we have recently started something even more intimate where an Executive Board member organizes a small local activity every week, which students can choose to participate in. Not only can we appeal to various tastes of photography by mixing up the meeting style, but the club also engages those who may have different social preferences.

Another important characteristic that contributes to an organization’s success is the community. Promoting a strong sense of family and connection between members is what makes a more cohesive group. Instead of referring to an organization as a club, associate it more as a “family” and new members will feel more excited to become a part of it. Though, promoting a family culture means more than just being close with one another.

To start, it is important to establish a sense of leadership in the club without imposing a sense of divide. The leaders in the club are the models of the organization’s conduct and if the Executive Board is separate, this will not promote the family community. A way of accomplishing this is by delegating roles in the club. More Executive Board positions encourage more members to get involved, even in small ways without too heavy a burden of responsibility.

Listening to feedback from everyone in the organization is also important. Members will feel more empowered if they see their ideas are valued. It is essential to recognize that innovative ideas can come from any level in the club, not just the Executive Board.

Lastly, I find it makes a huge difference to have the advisor involved in the club. In addition to sharing his ideas and own photography with our club on our Facebook page, he engages by coming to some meetings, truly acting as a mentor for many of the student members.

A successful organization can look differently, but in the end students stick around when they feel welcomed into the community and appreciated for their ideas.

 

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 27th print edition.

Contact Laura at

laura.colantonio@student.shu.edu

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