More than 330 student organizations are active on the MTSU campus, dozens of which gathered recently to share their stories and recruit new members as the spring semester gets well underway.
Jacqueline Victory, director of leadership and service in the MTSU Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, said she was pleased with student turnout at the latest fair on Jan. 22 inside the Student Union Ballroom.
Sixty-four student organizations signed up for the fair, which featured a ballroom full of informational booths set up by groups representing interests ranging from student government to music and from faith to fraternities.
Such fairs provide a forum for student groups to share information with prospective members as well as interact with fellow student groups with whom they may not otherwise connect on a campus of 24,000 students.
“The reason being a part of a student organization is important is that you meet people with a common interest,” Victory said. “You can make friends and make MTSU, which is a large campus, feel a little bit more like home.”
That’s exactly what happened to Victoria Johnson, an electronic media journalism major from St. Louis who “didn’t know anybody when I came to MTSU.” Representing the Freshman Council, Johnson staffed the MTSU Student Government Association table to share its benefits with student visitors to the fair.
“Freshman Council is such a great organization because we’re under the actual senators who represent student government, and I have a senator who has been a mentor to me,” Johnson said. “She’s been helping me a long the way, telling me what to get involved with.”
The council participates in a variety of activities such as Homecoming that helps students meet new people and develop even stronger ties to the Blue Raider campus.
“We’re very involved,” added Johnson, who plans to run for a student senator. “It’s a great way to network and meet so many people. I love it.”
While SGA is among the established student groups with an extensive history on campus, others are fledgling organizations started by students with an idea or a dream.
MTSU student Verinique Bailey of La Vergne shared the story of why and how she started the “I Am Me” organization on campus. The group’s purpose is to empower female students and boost their self-esteem by “inspiring the women of tomorrow with the excellence of the women of today.”
Bailey started the group during her junior year in high school before deciding to bring its mission to the Blue Raider campus.
Among its activities, the group conducts mentorship programs and community service projects to assist local nonprofits such as Greenhouse Ministries and the domestic violence shelter, as well as social events “to help our members be comfortable in their own skin,” Bailey said.
Now a college junior with a double major in organizational communication and fashion merchandising, Bailey is proud of her group’s growth in its second semester of having members. Last semester, “I Am Me” boasted more than 70 members among its ranks, exceeding Bailey’s initial expectations.
She was joined at the fair by fellow members Landy Tate, a sophomore public relations major from Memphis, and juniors ShaRhonda Thompson, an exercise science major from Flint, Mich., and Aysia Bertrand, an occupational therapy major from Nashville. All donned bright smiles and “I Am Me” T-shirts.
“The main thing we want to do is impact the lives of these women,” said Bailey, flanked by her group’s pink-themed display of photos, buttons, mission statement and history.
The diversity of student organizations also include a variety of religious-affiliated groups that cater to the spiritual needs of like-minded students.
Junior Chris Bergeron, a math education major from Baton Rouge, La., attended the fair with several fellow Mormon followers from the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
“Just having a good group of people who share the same beliefs,” he said. “It’s a good way to get away from the typical party scene in college. And it’s just good to be involved in the different service and church activities that we do.”
Victory added that students involved in such groups also develop invaluable leadership qualities — conducting meetings, developing a vision, managing different personalities — that will serve them well as they attain degrees and move out into the workforce.
“Whether it’s a professional student organization or the saxophone club, that dynamic will be the same,” Victory said of the skills needed to successfully form and maintain a student group.
Her office counsels the organizations on event planning as well as compliance with university policies and procedures, including requiring a faculty/staff adviser for each group. Bailey said her group’s adviser, Jonell Hinsey, interim director of the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, has been an invaluable resource in nurturing the group’s growth.
Victory notes that growth in the number of student groups is likely connected to the university’s launch a few years ago of the online directory MyMT (www.mtsu.edu/mymt), which lists all of the student organizations. It provides yet another way for students to connect with others as they forge deeper ties within the Blue Raider community.
For more information about student organizations, visit www.mtsu.edu/leadandserve/studentorg.php or call the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership at 615-898-5812 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Jimmy Hart (email@example.com)