In my two years here at UCI so far, I’ve made it a priority to get involved on campus, and it has taught me things I thought I never even needed to learn. While there are merits in investing whole-heartedly in academics in college, there is something powerful to be said about the irreplaceable life experiences and personal skills one may adopt by getting involved in extracurricular activities, namely through campus organizations.
Know Your Roots
Whether you are part of a club that is newly formed or over 20 years old, it’s important to keep the original mission statement in mind. Cherish the insights and experiences of the leaders who came before you, but remember that you deserve better than to endorse back-seat driving. Invest in inspiration! It is in the nature of a student-run group of people to offer a refreshing community to its members. As a leader, it’s your job to actively engage in making said community positive and educational for all (no, really, for ALL). Remember that. Remember it especially when you’ve written your 92nd weekly membership email that you seriously doubt anyone actually reads. Remember it most when a board member fails to follow through with any of their promises and are on the cusp of getting kicked out. Remember it most when the student center locks your organization out of your scheduled room despite having booked it four months in advance. None of these small and temporary tragedies matter nearly as much as the resonance of the small, dedicated community of students whom you have the potential to inspire through your work. Highly-active UCI student Andre Vidal shares his perspective on what a club means to him:
“Extracurricular involvement, be it clubs, teams, NPOs or leadership positions, ultimately function as a platform for the sharing of values, facilitating networking and uniting passions. It doesn’t matter if that passion is for unicycling or providing aid to the less privileged.”
Our actions and attitudes create ripple effects; therefore, we might as well remain positive and steadfast to our goals, regardless of the setbacks. Roots are important, because they inspire growth in every possible direction.
Expand Your Community
Remember your people. Celebrate them and their many talents! It’s unhealthy and wrong when organizations abuse their acquired knowledge by maliciously bullying others who lack those faculties of awareness. I’ve seen this especially with organizations with themes of social justice, and I wonder if they’ve considered constructing non-coercive discussions and fostering opportunities to collaborate with those targeted individuals who lack the desired level of awareness. Because that’s what a club is supposed to do, right? The best leadership, to me, means having the courage and patience to look your enemies in the eye in an attempt to become friends. Yes, friends. Offer opportunities for all to get more involved and cultivate the faculties to generate productive conversations among other club members and those outside of the club’s community. “People you work with (or work for) are people too. So expect people to bring their own perspective, values, troubles, priorities and conflicts that will perhaps, at times, aid you, and other times only frustrate you,” says Vidal.
Resources are There for You
This is something I wish I did earlier in college, and I’ve been making up for it ever since. The Campus Organizations Resources and Education (CORE) Office is in the 3rd floor of the Student Center and offers incredibly informative workshops on some of the most pressing topics concerning clubs: Funding, New Leadership, Marketing, Membership Retention, you name it. With their help, my own organization successfully filled out an application for the ASUCI Student Programming Funding Board (SPFB) and acquired over $2,000 in funds we needed for our next big event. They’ve helped our organization draft contracts, review stuffy business material and have advocated for our rights as students in the event that those rights are abused by other campus institutions.
You are Already a Leader
“There are so many different ways to be a leader, and society needs all types of leaders,” Elizabeth Koppe, Dalai Lama scholar winner and member of OTI told a group of us having a discussion on feminism that she sees herself as a very different feminist, yet pivotal. She may not feel comfortable leading or organizing a march, or holding a panel discussion, but she is good at research and academia. “We need loud, up front people and we need people who can put their focus and determination to other aspects as well,” says third-year student Tess Andrea who is co-president of a new club on campus known as A Positive Space for Women. In many ways, leadership is all about the ideas, values and morals that make up your atmosphere. Simply by living our lives, we have already invested in a cabin full of fresh perspectives and new ways of programming an already-existing institution. Think deeply and intentionally about the ideas you want to project toward those outside your community. As a leader, it’s important to think about what you want to contribute to those already-existing global conversations.
The survival of your contributions will only happen if you understand what your personal strengths are and have the bravery and patience to instill those strengths in others.