My first year as a student was spent trying to figure out what my major should be by taking classes that I thought I may be interested in. I ended up in a sport management and a parks, recreation and tourism class and decided that sport management was the path I wanted to pursue. After that, my fall semester of sophomore year was filled with more classes within the area of sport management and event planning. During my courses I had guest speakers and upperclassmen visit and talk about organizations. I began doing research to find some that would apply to me and looked like good organizations to be a part of. I had no idea that what I was about to apply to would become one of the most important and best decisions I made throughout college.
Towards the middle of my sophomore year, a few members were invited to a meeting where two upperclassmen were announcing that they were going to bring a student chapter of International Special Events Society (now known as International Live Events Association) to Mizzou's campus. I decided since this fit the events portion of my major, I wanted to join as a founding member and the first Director of Public Relations for the organization. Finally, toward the end of my sophomore year I, along with two others, decided to start our own sport management/venue management organization for the upcoming year. With the addition of the two new clubs both of my emphasis areas had organizations dedicated to them specifically and the opportunities for students increased quite a bit.
Was I crazy for becoming so involved so suddenly? Maybe.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.
So why were these organizations the best thing I did in college?
See my 5 reasons below (in no specific order):
I'm being 100% honest when I say that all of my closest friends are people I met through student organizations. More specifically, they're people I traveled with through student organizations.
One of my close friends said just the other day, "And to think, we became friends and got to know each other all because we met in the back seat of a car on our way to a St. Louis networking trip three years ago." This statement really hit me because it's absolutely true, we didn't know each other at all and from that one trip became friends. After that, when we decided to start our own organization she was one of the first people to come to mind and we've just become closer as time has passed. Organizations didn't just help me to meet people with similar interests, they are truly responsible for some of my best friends from college and memories that I'll remember forever. Let me tell you, driving for 7 hours overnight with four other people that you don't know real well give you plenty of time to learn more about people than you probably want to! Sure, I know some times these people you're traveling with end up being people you don't like, and that's okay, but I gained way more friends out of experiences like this than I did enemies.
2. Professional Network.
I've kept business cards and an Excel sheet of people tied to the sports industry that I've met and networked with because of student organizations. I understand that professors and departments have a lot on their plate, but without my involvement in student organizations my connections, leads after graduation, and knowledge of the industry would be quite a bit smaller. Through planning trips to St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, Nashville, Las Vegas and Columbia, South Carolina, I've established a professional network that I can feel really good about. I'm so thankful that I dove in and became very active with student organizations so that I had the opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and create relationships with people throughout the country. Because I decided I wasn't okay with always staying in my comfort zone, I traveled, networked with industry professionals, planned trips and events, and attended conferences, I have been rewarded with mentors and people I can ask for advice or help if I need it. (See my post on what networking is here!)
Yes I am (just about!) done with my undergraduate degree, have sat through hours of classes, done way too many group projects, and listened to good and bad guest speakers, but the most valuable knowledge I've gotten throughout college has come from two places; work/internship experience and student organizations. I think most of the time the knowledge gained from networking trips and conferences is more beneficial than what was taught through textbooks and lectures. You get to learn in a variety of ways, from multiple people and, for me, that is something I really enjoyed. I also think the professionalism and professional development that can be taught is important. Through organizations I had resume lessons, business card creation, social media lessons, professional email guest speakers, and a variety of others that I now use daily.
Don’t get me wrong, fundraising is a pain in the butt and no one likes doing it, but if you are in student organizations and can help raise funds, then you can probably get opportunities similar to mine! We even got our University department to donate a significant chunk of change to help us travel to South Carolina twice. We did a case study competition, but it was actually pretty fun and I love that place so spending a total of 9 days down there in 75 degree weather vs. staying home where it was 30 degrees and snowing is wonderful in my opinion! If I would have paid for everything for any of these trips the cheapest probably would have been $500 at minimum, $1,200 max probably (flights from Mizzou to University of SC are NOT cheap), but for a few of the trips I paid $100. The most I ever paid was $400, and that was Vegas for a week. Not exactly a cheap place to be for a week with 13 other college girls.. But with that being said, three of these trips were for conferences and two were for networking and venue tours. The education and connections I gained from these trips was worth way more money than I actually paid to attend.
I’m going to piggyback this one off of the travel section to start with. The experience of attending major conferences and participating in case study competitions has really set my education apart from some of my peers. I attended an event/wedding planning conference that had a lot of sessions related to marketing and social media. I never would have learned any of that at Mizzou, none of my major specific classes teach that, even though it is extremely useful to event planning and entertainment. (and now my blog!) - With the case study, it taught me creative ways of thinking that has really shown through in group projects and presentations the past couple years.
Outside of what happened during the trips, the planning of these trips (let me tell you that was definitely a “learn as you go” type experience the first time!) was great experience. Obviously you have travel plans to figure out, a budget to set, and advertising for these trips, but there is so much more to it! I gained other skills I never expected to through college. I learned how to create websites, a lot of marking and PR, I’ve set up fundraisers and philanthropic events as well. I never expected to review resumes, cover letters, business cards, on and on, but I have and I do and it has only helped me professionally. Public speaking is the last, but maybe most important one that I want to mention. By being put in front of people and speaking at meetings, leading fundraising events, contacting industry professionals, the list goes on and on, I was forced to become more comfortable in front of people and not allow myself to hide in these situations like I used to. The obviouse skills you'll gain (networking, industry knowledge, friendships, etc.) are great, but those additional skills (budgeting, planning, time management, public speaking, marketing, etc.) are so valuable as well!
As always, if you have questions comment or email me!
Be on the lookout for additional posts about student organizations in the future!