November 14, 2018
The connections made in college can create lifelong friendships, help build professional networks and acquire mentors, all of which impact you long past degree completion.
Earning a degree online can offer those same benefits for you as a student. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has an active student body, both on campus and online, with just about every type of club and organization you can imagine – and the opportunity to create a club with other students who share your interests.
October was online student engagement month, with a full roster of activities and events to introduce clubs and organizations, and provide chances to get involved. Building off feedback from past events, SNHU’s Office of Online Engagement moved from a one-week format to a full month to permit students time to fully explore possibilities available to them.
“Student engagement month is to allow online students to plant the seeds of their college experience,” said Gail Reynolds, assistant director of online engagement. “There are opportunities throughout the month to connect, build and engage across the university.
The month kicked off with a look at some of the most popular places in SNHUconnect, a private online community exclusively for students in online programs. Fourteen online clubs collaborated to create a club mixer open house, a first-time event that was well received. The virtual event, Reynolds said, showcased each club, with introductions to cabinet members, a bit about what clubs do, how students can get involved and what events are upcoming.
“The opportunity for student cabinets to step outside of their comfort zone to develop and deliver presentations was fantastic to facilitate,” Reynolds said. “The support they provide one another, the growth over time and the willingness to stretch themselves to experience something new…this is the college experience.”
The mixer was a real hit, with students, and for the clubs, too. “I think the club mixer was a fantastic idea,” said Kristine Ducote, president of the Law & Disorder Club. “It allowed students a bird’s-eye view of all of the clubs in a much more dynamic way. Actually seeing the club members and hearing what we do had a far greater impact than asking people just to go to our page. We saw a large influx of new members immediately following the mixer.”
Michelle-Ann Charles, president of the Communication Club, was equally as enthusiastic about the response to the mixer. “We were able to showcase some stellar events and guest speakers we’ve had, like Jody Glickman, the author of ‘Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead’ and promote our most recent event, ‘The Art of Disagreement,’” she said.
A cabinet officer for the Nerds Unite Club, Jenny Gardner thought the club mixer was a blast. “I loved to see how everyone explained their clubs,” she said. “It was especially interesting to see all the new students asking questions and learning about the clubs available. I met new students in my major, too.”
Gardner said directly after the mixer, the club received a lot of emails along with new posts on SNHUconnect. While Nerds Unite always has a lot of virtual activity on its club page, “we could see some new faces right off the bat,” she said.
Student Engagement Month featured an array of activities, from the whimsical, such as the “Say What You See” Challenge offered by the Communication Club, to the more serious and uplifting. The Psychology Club took a look at social media, social change and spreading positivity, led by a guest speaker. The Student Leadership Webinar series focused on compassion and the need to be more inclusive of it in our lives.
The Outdoor Club presented a fall photo contest, with the chance to win cool SNHU swag. The Society of Athens gave an overview of the history of SNHU, while the Christian Fellowship Club discussed favorite bible verses and hymns related to fall.
Nerds Unite and the Positive Connection Club collaborated on a student talent show. Book discounts and seasonal books were hot topics with the Book Club. The Communication Club partnered with the Mental Health Awareness Club for an online discussion of the “Six Keys of Mental Health.” Charles said, “This was a follow-up to our May 2018 event in support of Mental Health Awareness Month, ‘Can Effective Communication Improve Mental Health?’”
Reynolds said student advisory board members also shared their personal stories during engagement month “to demonstrate how each path to SNHU is different.” This led many students to share their own journeys with others in SNHUconnect afterward.
Getting Involved is the First Step
Students come from across the globe but through their engagement and involvement with clubs and activities, they find commonalities and pursue shared interests. For many, it’s the first step in becoming a peer leader or tutor, a club officer or student advisory member.
Gardner, the former president of the LGBT+League, is a peer leader, mathematics peer tutor, part of the student advisory board and team captain for SNHU’s cyber league team. Had you asked her early on if she anticipated any of these roles as an online student, she’d have been hard-pressed to believe it would be true. Her involvement and enjoyment of the activities she’s engaged in have led her to pursue even more.
As the president of the Law & Disorder Club, Ducote said, “I work with my cabinet as a team to bring the students informative guest speakers, explore different career areas and ‘continuing ed’ within the criminal justice field. We also stress the importance of and provide networking, which is imperative for students.”
The club has recently created a spin-off of Law & Disorder, the CJ Career Council, which offers students a chance to ask questions or connect with a mentor who works within various areas of the criminal justice field. The club has also launched a monthly newsletter during Student Engagement Month.
When it comes to the benefits of becoming involved in clubs and organizations, Ducote said there are many. While some are related to the networking opportunities that provide valuable information and connections, others will also make a positive difference.
“Being involved on club cabinets or in honor societies benefits the students by giving them practical experience with leadership and soft skills, and especially functioning as a team player,” she said. “All of these are skills employers look for. It has an added benefit of making some lifelong friends.”
Ducote points out an important factor: “Students who get involved greatly enhance their experience at SNHU and integrate more fully. In turn, they are shown to have higher success rates completing their degree, which is the common goal all students share.”
Pamme Boutselis is a writer and content director in higher education. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb or connect on LinkedIn.
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