By: Feven Ephraim, SFU Student
For many who attend SFU, student life on campus seems nearly nonexistent. One often repeated reason for this is that most students commute to campus and therefore don’t really want to stay longer than they need to. Students who want to be active on campus are told to join clubs, proactively engage with student unions, or volunteer with the school. But this advice ignores the legitimate reasons students may have for not joining — many of which are barriers produced by student groups themselves. The onus is thus on student groups to make volunteering and active participation as easy as possible, so that students who want to join and be active, can.
SFU student groups who engage more with other students benefit themselves, and also the entire university. Here are four things that student groups do that improve their visibility and attractiveness to the student body:
From conversations with other students and from personal experience, many of us don’t know what options are actually available for university engagement. Without scrolling through the SFSS website, there is little chance to organically find out what is happening on campus. Facebook updates help a little, but not all student groups are active on social media — and not all students have or actively use a Facebook account. Advertising broadly is a great way to make students aware of what is happening at SFU. This goes beyond just stapling a flyer onto a notice board and hoping someone sees it. Post wide and often, digitally and physically; students today get their information from a lot of different sources.
- Be active
It seems that a lot of what goes on with student groups happens out of sight from the rest of the school. Some groups organize and host fun and creative events publicly during the day in the Convocation Mall — this should be done more often. Passersby who are interested may decide to join a group that is visibly active. Not only would this bring in more members, but it would also make the campus atmosphere livelier.
- Reach out!
Because students may not know executive members personally, joining a student group out of the blue may feel like intruding on relationships that are already established. It can be hard to insert oneself into a social group without being actively invited, resulting in some students feeling unwelcome before they even join. However, if group members actively reach out to new students themselves, those students may be more likely to join. This is done best when it’s an ongoing effort, not something that just happens during Clubs Days. Current members could hand out flyers to students who they feel could be interested, or have conversations with potential members in class. In addition, introducing new members to group initiatives and current members with a fun event makes a club seem more approachable.
- More convenient meeting times
Finally, holding meetings outside of when most students take their classes would be beneficial. Class conflicts can prevent those who want to join a club from attending. Meetings in the evenings during weekdays would be a lot more convenient for students (at least for those who do not also have part-time jobs). Scheduling meetings too early in the morning may discourage students from joining by forcing them to wake up way too early, and meetings late at night may be daunting for students who have to travel by transit.
Student life is an important part of the university experience. Joining student groups matters not only for more lines on a resumé, but also to have social support systems for the student population. This could even lead to better performance academically, as some studies have shown that students who participate in extracurriculars tend to be better students.
It’s up to current leaders and members of SFU student groups to facilitate student participation. While I’ve only listed four suggestions here, there are possibly many other additional ways to improve student engagement. If we come together to implement these ideas, our university will begin to feel a lot more connected.