Making Your Involvement Matter: Being Present in Your Student Organization Involvement

This week’s post on making involvement matter comes to the Student Activities Blog from our Union and Programs Associate Director, Dr. Michael L. King.

michael 1When I recall my undergraduate years, I would be lying if I said my campus involvement choices were made for any reason other than because I found them interesting and fun.  Some of this involvement included hosting a radio show, singing in the choir, serving on the student government board, playing intramural sports, working a few on-campus jobs.  I loved them all!  With these groups and the members who comprised them, I made many memories by meeting new people, going on trips, staying up late, getting to know friends, solving world problems, and doing whatever else I could find time for!

As I reflect on these experiences today, I realize that regardless of how much time I committed to a group, I always was present.  I know now that by being present, I made my involvement matter. I don’t mean that I simply attended the meetings, events, etc.; rather I made sure to insert myself into the conversation and interact with others in the group.  By being present, I was an active participant, and this participation was key to making those many hours both fun and important to my professional development.  More specifically, I constantly practiced my ability to interact and communicate with others competently, and I didn’t even realize it.

Perhaps it was fitting that several years later I earned a PhD in communication studies.  My focus in this field of study has pointed me to research relevant to this month’s blog post and communication specifically.  For example, the National Communication Association reports that competent communication requires the motivation to make a positive first impression, the knowledge of appropriate social norms, and the skills necessary to accomplish one’s interpersonal goals (Spitzburg, n.d.).  As a soon-to-be college graduate, your attention to these three areas is of great importance. In fact, in a 2012 study employers reported that recent college graduates “too often don’t know how to communicate effectively. [They also] have trouble adapting, problem solving and making decisions . . .” (Scott, 2013).  Your involvement in most campus organizations and many on-campus jobs provide the perfect place—a laboratory, if you will—to practice and perfect these important skills.  As popular Southern Miss professor, Dr. Amy Miller, frequently exclaims, your successful development in these areas will most certainty put your resume toward the top of the pile.

Michael during his radio d.j. days. He's the one on the right in yellow.

Michael during his radio d.j. days… He’s the one on the right in yellow.

When I was an undergraduate, I didn’t know any of this. I was just having fun doing what I liked to do, and I suggest that you do the same.  But, when you do, try hard to be present whenever you can.  While you’re having fun, try to identify and apply concepts you’re learning in your courses.  Seize opportunities to help your group solve a problem, plan an event, strategize for the future, or even attend a conference.

Finally, commit yourself to interact with your peers through both social media and face-to-face exchanges.  We at Southern Miss not only want you to graduate, but we want you to be employed after you walk across the stage.  Making your involvement matter will contribute significantly toward this goal we share.  It worked for me, and I know it will do the same for you.

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