By Rocio Ayard-Ochoa
Assistant Director, ASUN Center for Student Engagement
A common theme in research on clubs and organizations is the potential such involvement has to impact civic engagement and leadership development. There is a wealth of research on the benefits of joining clubs and organizations, such as the positive impact on relationship building, understanding of diverse viewpoints, leadership development, life purpose, and an overall improved college experience. It is my hope that as I explore research, I identify ways to better serve the students and help them develop personal and social responsibility. Our institution should create well rounded student leaders that continue to lead after they graduate!
“Our nations and our world need graduates who are aware of the importance of contributing to the greater good and who are poised and ready to do so.” (Dey et al., 2009, p. 19).
It is imperative that students are equipped with the skills and values necessary to make a difference in their communities and positively impact society. Clubs and organizations offer students’ the opportunity to engage civically, navigate diverse viewpoints, develop leadership skills, and ultimately find their purpose. I hope to gain a better understanding of: how clubs and organizations affect civic responsibility? How clubs and organizations affect the students’ desire to be an active and contributing citizen? What role intersectionality plays in students’ involvement during their college experience?
The development of personal and social responsibility was one of four learning outcomes identified by the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AAC&U),”Civic Responsibility: What is the Campus Climate for Learning?” (Dey & associates, 2009, vii).
- knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world
- intellectual and practical skills
- personal and social responsibility
- integrative learning
Special attention should be placed on number three because few colleges ensure that students are actually educated for personal and social responsibility (Dey et al., 2009). Thus, we have an opportunity at the University of Nevada, Reno to cultivate a sense of responsibility, promote student leadership and involvement, and document the impact of student outcomes.
In my role as Assistant Director of the Center for Student Engagement, I am actively pursuing this opportunity by:
A) Encouraging clubs and organizations to partake in the Student Events Advisory Board (SEAB) process to cultivate responsibility. The board is modeled within a student development framework that understands and encourages organizations to be contributors to an overall active student life on campus. Further, it encourages the exploration of programmatic efforts without taking away the ownership of events from sponsoring clubs and organizations.
B) Promoting leadership thru the development and implementation of the iLead conference which aims to provide student leaders with the necessary leadership skills to develop an effective club. In addition, the GivePulse platform and the clubLead initiative promote civic engagement among clubs by providing ample opportunities to partake in volunteerism and highlight the civic work they do.
C) Documenting impact by working collaboratively to examine the development of club officers’ attitudes on civic engagement and tie those attitudes to behavior and behavioral change. Our assessment and research will enable us to inform best practices both on and off our campus moving forward.
Research suggests that “Students who participate in community service activities were more likely to strongly agree about every item pertaining to contributing to a larger community than those who do not participate” (Dey et al., 2009, p.11), concluding that it enhances overall desire to contribute to a larger community. Furthermore, campus life activities also positively impact students’ desired commitment towards the larger community. Clubs and organizations can often take the lead in supporting students to develop a sense of responsibility to the community and civic engagement. I encourage you to support student engagement and leadership in club and organizations and get involved yourself to model civic engagement!
AAC&U encourages the idea that all students must have ample opportunities “to practice excellence, integrity, and civic commitments as part of their basic responsibilities as learners” (p. vii). Dey & associates (2009) claimed that if students must be held accountable for meeting these expectations, that the university must do the following: “become much more intentional about articulating these expectations to students… about assessing how well students are acquiring them, and about learning-across the academy- from our shared progress” (p. viii). While we all play a role in encouraging involvement on campus and promoting the idea of student leadership, we must also play a key role in the expansion of their social responsibility while in college. We must help students learn the skills needed to effectively improve society and help them develop agency.
References Dey, E. L.,, Barnhardt, C. L., Antonaros, M., Ott, M. C., & Holsapple, M., A. (2009). Civic responsibility: What is the campus climate for learning? Association of American Colleges and Universities: Washington, D.C. Additional Reading Dey, E. L., Ott, M. C., Antonaros, M., Barnhardt, C. L., & Holsapple, M. A. (2015). Engaging diverse viewpoints: What is the campus climate for perspective-taking? Association of American Colleges and Universities: Washington, D.C.