Student Orgs for Days
“College XYZ has over 300 student-run clubs and organizations. If you can’t find one that you like, you can start your own!”
If you’re a high school senior, you’ve probably heard some form of this declaration way too many times during an info session or campus tour. Colleges love to talk about how involved their students are in extracurricular activities, and as a real-life college student, I can tell you that student organizations are one of my favorite things about Vanderbilt.
Truthfully, though, when I was a senior, this part of the tour was never all that exciting to me. I think it had a lot to do with the way that student organizations were run at my high school – they were a good way to get to know your classmates, but we were never really able to accomplish much during our one-hour-a-week lunch meetings that only about a quarter of your members remember to attend. So while I was excited to get involved in student organizations in college, they were never really a priority for me.
Fast forward two years, and you can probably see where this is going: this year, I got a chance to start my own student organization. So yes, what they tell you on the tours is true.
My organization, called Code Ignite, is a service organization that aims to better the Nashville community through technology outreach initiatives (can you guess how many times I’ve said that in the past month?). Our main project right now is providing computer science-based enrichment classes to underserved afterschool programs for middle school students. Along with a group of fellow Vanderbilt students, I’ve spent the semester reaching out to community partners, working with Vanderbilt faculty, and recruiting members to help achieve this goal. A lot of work? Yeah. But also a lot of fun.
One of my favorite things about starting an organization at Vanderbilt it’s so easy to find people who actually care about what you’re doing and are willing to help. From the minute we turned in our paperwork to start our organization, we were paired with an advisor from Vanderbilt’s Office of Active Citizenship and Service. Our advisor, Lauren, is basically the coolest person ever – she meets with us every other week, just to check in with our progress and provide any support we might need. OACS is also helping us promote our organization by putting on a “spotlight” event later this semester. Through the office, you can also rent cars for transportation to service sites, apply for funding, and much more!
In addition to faculty support and engagement, another reason why Vanderbilt organizations thrive is that the student body really does want to engage with the community and get involved on campus. At our first general body meeting, I was pleasantly surprised when over 50 students showed up (and proceeded to devour the pizza we had ordered while expecting a much smaller group…my bad). Further, people were actually excited to volunteer with us, and even had their own ideas for initiatives they wanted to pursue.
Finally, getting to call yourself a “Vanderbilt student organization” is great for trying to find community partners. Whenever we reach out to a local school or afterschool program, people are almost always willing to work with us. Vanderbilt as an institution has such a great relationship with the Nashville community that simply mentioning that you’re a Vanderbilt student is a major selling point.
As an educational studies and computer science major, getting to start an organization that matches my interests so closely has been one of my proudest accomplishments since getting here. And as with most of the things I’ve done since coming here, it’s something that I never even thought about doing before I came to Vanderbilt. I guess the moral of the story is that if you’re thinking about coming to Vanderbilt, prepare yourself to become at least a little obsessed with student organizations.