More than a T-Shirt member

Upperclassmen encourage ‘quality’ involvement

Freshman Clifton Jett wanted to join “everything” college had to offer.

Students walking to class often pass by bulletin boards like these filled with information about upcoming events and important information for on campus events.
Photo by Kayla Hands
Students walking to class often pass by bulletin boards like these filled with information about upcoming events and important information for on campus events.

The day before classes started, he spoke at the first Christian service offered by university Religious Life. He feels he belongs at the multicultural center, and as a theatre major, he’s auditioning for his first USI Theatre production this week. Jett has yet to explore the Involvement Fair Wednesday and discover even more opportunities.

However, Jett said Student Government Association President Ashley Wright’s speech at Convocation made him reconsider how much he takes on right away.

Wright, a junior business administration major, told the Class of 2020 at its introduction ceremony to “get involved,” but not “too much.”

“Before (Wright) said that, I did think I had to get involved in everything,” Jett said. “She was teaching me a lesson—that I don’t have to get too involved to make an impact.”

He said now, his “whole purpose” is to create balance with his involvement and other responsibilities.

“I’m still exploring clubs and organizations,” Jett said, “but I’m taking what (Wright said) into consideration.”

No one can be Superman

Last semester, Wright was involved in five of the more than 140 student organizations on campus. Since she’s taken on the role of SGA President, she’s taken the focus down to that leadership position.

“You hit that moment where you’ve been doing so much that you say, ‘Something needs to change,’” she said. “You have to find that perfect balance in order to get the full college experience without stressing out.”

Wright said she really wanted freshmen to know she understood how hard it is to first, get involved, but then to not overcommit themselves.

“It makes me feel good if that speech helped at least one person,” she said.

Senior Evan Stieler said it’s “fantastic” how enthusiastic the freshman are in getting involved on campus, but he stressed the importance of academics and staying healthy.

In his past three years, the biology major has been involved in organizations such as SGA, the Honors Executive Board and Student Ambassadors. Stieler is the current student representative serving on the Board of Trustees, and he also was a Resident Assistant in Ruston Hall for two years.

His senior year, he’s cut down to his trustee position, the honors executive board and Student Ambassadors.

“It’s about prioritization,” Stieler said. “This freshman class is awesome with so much excitement, but you to have to know your limits. You can’t really be involved with 10 organizations, unless you’re Superman.”

He said freshman year is a great time to explore organizations through general meetings, but once students take on leadership positions, they shouldn’t “spread themselves too thin.”

“Stock up on sleep,” Stieler said. “Make sure you’re staying healthy. Block out this time for lunch. If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be able to perform at your best.”

Zach Barrett, a senior exercise science major, speaks with a potential freshman recruit about joining Lambda Chi Alpha.
Photo by Megan Baggett
Zach Barrett, a senior exercise science major, speaks with a potential freshman recruit about joining Lambda Chi Alpha.

‘Quality over quantity’

When freshman Samar Syeda learned about the university’s Riley Dance Marathon during the summer, she immediately contacted representatives and got involved.

Syeda has already contributed to marketing for the hospital fundraising event and gotten fellow freshmen to sign up. She said she’s fueled by her passion from being involved with dance marathons in past years.

“In high school, I was in a lot of clubs,” the biology major said. “I knew that college was going to be tougher and I’d have to be more independent. At max, I’ll be in three clubs here.”

Syeda said she’s interested in joining a sorority and wants to learn more about other organizations, but she feels she knows her limits well enough now to not be overwhelmed later. With getting into medical school as a goal, academics are her priority.

“I usually take two days off in a week to just study and forget my social life,” she said. “It’s too much when you can’t focus on one thing at a time.”

Alumna Alexa Bueltel said she found her balance sophomore year after conversations with her mother and career counselor.

“I came home one day, so tired and stressed, and (my mom) said, ‘Alexa, you probably should reconsider pulling back,’” the 2016 grad said. “In the end, I was just joining some of these organizations because I had friends in it or I was getting a T-Shirt.”

Bueltel said her career counselor posed a question to her about her resume: “Is there substance behind the organizations you’re involved in?”

“I say ‘quality over quantity,’” the current graduate student at Iowa State University said. “You can be a part of 10 organizations and say that, but were you really involved?”

As last year’s SGA President, Bueltel said it’s only when you’re genuinely involved that organization membership will benefit you.

“In job interviews, they see what I did on my resume, but they could hear in my voice and see in my mannerism that I was proud to be part of certain organizations and not just signing in at meetings,” she said. “When I solely focused on SGA, it really helped me develop into a leader.”

Bueltel said while often freshman are eager to get involved, there are many who are the opposite.

“To those who are intimidated, it’s okay to not jump headfirst and get involved in everything,” she said. “Honestly, something I wish I would’ve done is take freshman year to get acclimated with academics before branching out.”

Bueltel encourages freshmen to take their time with involvement and put education first.

“I realized it isn’t how many organizations you join,” she said, “but the footprint you leave.”