Before starting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Katie Esters was worried about making new friends.
At a new university, her biggest concern was how to get involved.
But, as a freshman, Esters learned about different events happening on campus from her resident assistants.
Typically, RAs post campus news in the residence halls. By getting connected early in her college career, Esters realized the value of student involvement in a college setting.
“I’ve learned so much about who I am through the people I’ve met in student organizations,” Esters said. “And since I’m always busy, I’ve learned how to handle a lot of stress at one time and effectively manage both work, school and extracurricular activities.”
Now a junior political science and English double major, Esters said the transition was easier because of the organizations she joined early. Esters continued her passion for music from high school into college by joining UNL’s show choir, Big Red Singers, and an a capella group, Pitch Please.
“Had I not joined several different student organizations throughout my three years in college, my college experience would be completely different,” Esters said. “This is where I’ve met the majority of my friends—so not only am I making music and participating in other causes that mean a lot to me, but I’m making relationships that I know will last a lifetime.”
At UNL, there are currently 629 recognized student organizations.
Veronica Riepe, director of Student Involvement, said the transition is made easier when students form new friendships through organizations on campus. The department encourages students to find both an organization that relates to their major and an organization of their interest.
“It is a great way to connect because everyone wants to find their place in college,” Riepe said. “We think about the students who come from out of state or even from out of the country and the likelihood of them coming with their friends or somebody from their high school being very slim.”
Student Involvement has made it more accessible for first-year students to find an organization that best suits them through their new database, NvolveU 2.0.
By logging in with UNL credentials, students are able to search keywords that will supply a list of organizations pertaining to what they are interested in. If a student is unable to find an RSO in their search, they can create an organization of their own by finding a university advisor and at least five students who want to participate.
“These organizations consist of students who live in different places, are from different places and have different majors,” Riepe said. “You are all brought together with this one interest, this one commonality.”
The Center for Civic Engagement also gives students a chance to become involved through a variety of volunteer opportunities. According to Linda Moody, director of service learning, the center assists students in thinking about a much broader definition of what it means to work within a community.
“The center is all about connecting students with opportunities to strengthen their personal and social responsibility,” Moodysaid. “Whether it comes through service learning, leadership development or political engagement, it’s truly a way to find out what a student is interested in and passionate about.”
Through the center, students can participate in service study alternative service breaks, which take place during summer, fall, winter or spring breaks. These experiences allow students to serve in diverse environments, both locally and globally.
“They are opportunities to travel and interact with diverse groups of students whether it be academic disciplines, culture, race, religion,” Moody said. “The whole notion of civic mindedness and civil discourse really starts to play out, and it’s always an adventure.”
According to Moody, students can sit down and think about their academics and how to make a difference in their community. The center gives students the opportunity to connect their passions and career pursuits that may assist their first-year experience and beyond.
“We know that if we can get students connected in the community in which they live, they are more likely to stay and graduate and are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior,” Moody said. “We know that through that connection, the pressure starts to ease.”
Esters said being involved on campus can also be a resume booster.
“If you’re looking to kill time, have fun or create real change locally or globally, you can find that as well,” she said. “There are a ton of students on campus who are waiting for you to join their organizations—take a chance and try it out.”