When Zach Driscoll ’20 arrived on campus, he was hesitant to reach out and meet people. But that changed once he discovered two recognized student organizations—Otto Tunes, an all-male a cappella group, and First Year Players, a student theater organization for non-drama majors. Both organizations fueled his passion for music and theater, allowed him to continue performing and created lasting memories and friendships. “Otto Tunes was my first family on campus,” says Driscoll, a dual major in advertising and information management and technology. “Rehearsals for both organizations were a way for me to get out of my room, hang out with friends and make some great music.”
Being surrounded by people with similar interests provides instant support and, often times, friends for life.
Since then, Driscoll has served as public relations director for Otto Tunes, competed twice in the International Collegiate Championship of A Cappella and performed at Radio City Music Hall. Last year, he was the music director for First Year Players’ production of “Newsies.” This year he’s a co-producer. “Little did I know my freshman year that I would be receiving the immense amount of love and support from a group of people I barely knew,” he says. “While my first-year experience was amazing, the years that followed would prove to be even better.”
Syracuse University has more than 300 recognized student organizations , and Driscoll’s experience epitomizes their role in a student’s college life. “One benefit of being involved is the instant connection to other students,” says David Sargalski, director of the Office of Student Activities . “With a campus as large as Syracuse University, joining a student organization will make the campus seem much smaller. Being surrounded by people with similar interests provides instant support and, often times, friends for life.”
The range of student organizations is vast, diverse and ever growing. Among them are professional, cultural/international, community service, special interest, art/entertainment, governance, honorary, sports, academic, religious, political and advocacy groups; fraternities and sororities; and media/publications. Two of the most popular are University Union, the official student programming board that organizes major music events like Juice Jam and Block Party and has brought such headliners as Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Drake to campus; and the Student Association, which represents the undergraduate study body and collaborates with the administration to create policy and initiatives for the campus community. Cultural/international organizations also draw great interest. “These organizations provide a community for students, and many of their activities are based on sharing their culture with the rest of the community,” Sargalski says.
One way to check out the student organizations is to drop by the Involvement Fair on September 4 (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) on the Shaw Quad to meet organization representatives and learn about their groups.
Launch a New Organization
If there isn’t an organization that catches your attention, you can apply to create your own. Last academic year, 35 new registered student organizations were recognized, including the Chinese Dance Student Association and Slow Food Syracuse University, which is devoted to sustainable local food and cooking, tradition, culture and diversity.
In January 2018, video game aficionados founded Esports at Syracuse University. What started with a handful of students now counts more than 300 members, according to club president Lauren Wiener ’20. The club features highly skilled teams that participate in online and in-person tournaments nationwide. There are also on-campus competitions and casual gaming opportunities. “We welcome any and all types of gamers,” says Wiener, a double major in sociology and English and textual studies.
With the opening of the Barnes Center at The Arch , the University’s new health, wellness and recreation complex, club members will be able to gather in the Esports Gaming Room, which Wiener sees as a way to bring old and new gamers together and host tournaments and other events. “The gaming center will create a lot of opportunities for us to give our members an engaging esports experience,” she says. “Not only will our team members be able to practice and play games at specially reserved esports computers, but we can also introduce new people to the wonderful world of gaming.”
In addition, students can take advantage of extracurricular activities like Orange After Dark, which offers late-night programming with cosmic bowling , laser tag and movies among the options. “These activities help to promote and develop the well-rounded student. They provide a setting for student interaction, relationship forming and discussion,” Sargalski says. “Students who take part in activities together—as diverse groups of individuals—gain more self-confidence and appreciation for other students’ differences and similarities. Plus, our events and programs are a lot of fun.”
Grow, Learn, Build Skills
Participation in a recognized student organization also allows students to gain experience in communication, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, group development, budget and management and much more, Sargalski says. “Members take the lead with planning their events and programs from inception all the way through fruition, all while learning valuable skills and competencies that are transferable with their work in the classroom. Involvement also looks great on their resumes and to future employers.”
Celines Aquino ’20, a dual major in electrical engineering and physics, is president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and of Alpha Omega Epsilon, a sorority for women in engineering and the technical sciences. She credits members of both organizations for helping her grow and learn, demonstrating how to be a role model and extending her network. “Joining these organizations has done so much for my leadership skills,” she says. “Not only have I gained more confidence, but I have learned how to interact and handle many situations by surrounding myself with supportive and friendly people. They’ve helped me be the best leader, student, friend and person I could be.”
As Aquino points out, student organizations are formed to benefit the students, so take advantage of them. She recommends meeting with members and leaders and learning how your involvement may help the group. And join when the time is right for you, she says. “I know it may be intimidating, but if you’re interested in an organization, the best thing you can do is just try it out!”