Student involvement rises despite falling funding

Sophomore political science major Rachel Soohey believes that her participation in the International Relations Association will help her later life not only because it is connected to her field of study, but because it has given her the opportunity to travel and to build interpersonal skills in a professional environment.
Randy Hazelton
Sophomore political science major Rachel Soohey believes that her participation in the International Relations Association will help her later life not only because it is connected to her field of study, but because it has given her the opportunity to travel and to build interpersonal skills in a professional environment.

Posted on December 09, 2013 in News
By Jeremy Holden

Jason Saucier, director of Gorham Student Life, confirmed what the proliferation of fliers for student and student group lead events on campus point to: student group activity and participation are on the rise.
Patrick Higgins
Jason Saucier, director of Gorham Student Life, confirmed what the proliferation of fliers for student and student group lead events on campus point to: student group activity and participation are on the rise.

As student enrollment drops, students become more involved

Participation in student groups and organizations has been on the rise, and group members, along with Student Life faculty, are encouraging students to get involved to make more connections in the university community and to build skills that will transfer to future careers.

Jason Saucier, director of Gorham Student Life, said that over the past few years student groups have been seeing larger participation numbers. Saucier also mentioned that in this semester alone there have been roughly 30 new student groups that are officially recognized within the university, ranging in variety from new greek organizations to scuba diving club.

“We have a plethora of opportunities for students that are interested in joining a student group,” said Saucier.“It all depends on the focus and appeal of the group. The groups are student controlled, which is a good thing, and it’s great to see that they’re on the rise.”

On the Portland campus, the situation is no different. Chris O’Connor, director of Portland Student Life, shared an account of his own experience regarding group opportunities for student involvement. O’Connor gave his own personal story about his undergraduate career at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he became involved in student groups like the school’s marching band and the RA program. He said that his involvement in those groups gave him transferrable skills for the job market that helped him create a successful career.

“A big benefit from my experience with student groups during my undergraduate studies was creating connections with other people,” said O’Connor.

Saucier said that being a part of student groups allows students to get hands-on experience in different disciplines and that this experience reflects well on resumes when students graduate and search for jobs. He said students can develop “soft skills”—being able to talk professionally with other people and make deadlines—and he said group involvement helps students perform better in school.

“Students should join groups,” said Rochelle Soohey, a sophomore political science major and vice president of the International Relations Association. “Being a part of a student group has definitely made me a more well-rounded student.”

Through the IRA, Soohey has been able to travel to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Pennsylvania State University for Model United Nations conferences. Soohey said that she has gained many skills from these experiences that she can take with her into the professional job market, like working with people who have political and social views that contrast with her own personal beliefs and maintaining a professional attitude.

“Being in a student group helped me grow as a person,” said Soohey. “I learned how to host events, professionally negotiate, and I developed strong listening and organizational skills.”

“Groups allow students to take a sense of pride in school,” said O’Connor. “A big benefit is that students get to make connections with a lot of people and become excited about coming to campus for something other than class.”

Saucier said the liveliness of student groups and organizations is not reflective of the recent steep decline in enrollment that the university has seen this fall.

For the IRA, Soohey said that attendance changes every week, that it can range between five and 30 people, but on the whole, there are always a good number of students who attend group meetings.

“Connection to the university’s community is the number one thing for students,” said O’Connor. “It helps them take a sense of pride in school, and student groups help create this connection.”