Rethinking the Roles of Student Organizations.

One of the best ways to get involved during college is joining a student organization. Becoming involved on/off your campus during college can provide valuable experience that can lead to personal and professional development that you might not get by just attending classes.

The role of student organizations should not only be an outlet for entertainment & pizza parties (although pizza always sound nice), but also be a source of learning opportunities that aren’t confined to a lecture hall or a lab. Student involvement has been heavily linked to student success.

Risky Business

Being in environments where it is OK to take risks and it is OK to make mistakes is very valuable to a student’s personal development. Providing students with moments or situations that allow them to become comfortable with exploration can open up a realm of possibilities for those students that just needed that chance to be engaged in a different environment or way. 

Check out our top list of 10 things you can learn outside the classroom for a breakdown of what stepping out of the classroom can do for students.

Experiential Learning & Retention

Student organizations can be a source of experiential learning and heavily influence retention. Research on retention and involvement in student activities as well as service-learning projects seems to support our thoughts on the subject.

Moore, Lovell, McGann, & Wyrick (1998)* found that personal development is best achieved when students are involved outside of the classroom, particularly when they engage in a diverse set of projects, experiences, and activities. We featured a post authored by Kimberly A. White of Birmingham-Southern College that dives into experiential Learning and retention.

In her article, she writes,

“Students who engage with experiences outside of the classroom may feel a greater connection to the campus, more supported by faculty, staff, and students in the community, as well as gain a better understanding of themselves as learners and future professionals.”

We couldn’t agree more. Student organizations are a major source of community building on campuses. Students have the opportunity to get to know their peers, the campus faculty, and members of the surrounding community.

Student organizations allow a student who are involved on campus to build strong support systems and develop diverse skill sets that can be useful throughout their professional careers.

Campus Highlight: NC State University

NC State University is one of the best at getting their students involved and keeping them engaged. With around 650 student organizations NC State provides students with a vast and diverse pool of organizations to choose from. NC State Student Involvement also has a twitter page to keep student informed and up-to-date with events around campus like #Packapalooza and CampusConnections.

This year’s freshmen class (class of 2019) were born around 1997. They are tech savvy and are accustomed to being bombarded by media. Over the last few years, there has been a push for institutions to adapt to this digital generation. Engaging student through social platforms is no longer a fringe concept but a standard in student affairs.

As the landscape of student affairs continues to transform we strongly suggest to not forget the foundation student affairs is based on. The methods of student engagement may change but the outcomes should remain the same. Institutions should be assuring students have the opportunities they deserve and the support they need!

If you have any ideas on how we could rethink the roles of student organization please let us know in the comments below! Thanks!


*Moore, J., Lovell, C.D., McGann, T., Wyrick, J. (1998). Why involvement matters: A review of research on student involvement in the collegiate setting. College Student Affairs Journal, 17(2), 4-17.

Anthony Freese

About the author: Anthony Freese (he/him) is formerly the Director of Marketing at Modern Campus Presence, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.