Here at Western Carolina University, there exists a student club or organization for nearly anything one could think up. There are the standard departmental clubs such as the chemistry club, the management club and the biology club. There is a society for the appreciation of Celtic culture, a pagan student association and the Student Debate Association.
In addition to more academic or cultural clubs, students may also choose to become members of more recreational organizations. For example, there is an anime club where students come together to watch and discuss cartoons, or a gaming club, where members play a variety of video games with one another.
With roughly 185 registered organizations, there is a such a wide variety that it may become difficult for a new organization to get word out or capture student interest that is already heavily divided up.
Dr. Sam Miller, vice chancellor of student affairs, said that he agrees most students are not aware of the full variety of student organizations.
“With all of today’s social media and constant information updates, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture sometimes, including all the other things happening all around us,” said Miller.
However, Miller argued that this is not indicative of a failure in spreading the word or having broad enough unifying interests.
“It’s natural for student organizations to come and go,” said Miller. “The best tool is reaching out and making personal connections.”
Organizations must be wary of becoming too reliant on social media, as Miller pointed out.
“It’s easy to ignore a Facebook posting but hard to ignore someone shaking your hand,” said Miller.
The nature of the organization itself is also important to take into account. Some organizations may choose to expand while others might have different goals or values.
Miller noted that most student organizations are built around a smaller group of students that share a connection. These are the clubs that tend to stay around for longer, as members who share a close connection are more likely to help the club survive and thrive.
Visith Thepphasone, sophomore and president of the Asian Student Association (ASA), was happy to share how his club spreads the word of their organization and activities.
“We take advantage of events on campus such as the International Festival, Valley Balleyhoo, Cat Fair and others. These events are where we recruit most of our new members,” said Thepphasone.
He also noted that word of mouth was a big factor in recruitment and getting the word out.
“Often we have friends of friends that will join up and take part in the activities we have going on,” said Thepphasone.
Some clubs are thought to purposefully keep their numbers low, either because the nature of the club requires exclusivity or because leaders of the club may think it beneficial to the club’s social cohesion to keep it small.
Thepphasone said that is not the case under his leadership.
“I honestly think it doesn’t matter how many you have so long as you have a good amount of core community that participates and helps out with events, this allows any number to participate,” said Thepphasone.
Perry Widemon, president of the Evolution Modeling Troupe, a dance and modeling club, was also willing to share how his group gets the word out.
“We just started out, but we’ll be putting out a promotional video that will be uploaded onto YouTube. We also attend Cat Fair and Valley Ballyhoo in order to advertise,” said Widemon.
Coming from a different perspective, Widemon noted that the nature of his group called for a degree of exclusivity.
“We do [keep numbers purposefully low]. We want 15-20 at the most in the group,” said Widemon.
According to Dr. Miller, it may make sense for some clubs to stay a certain size.
“I don’t think the measure of success for a student organization necessarily comes from its size or visibility on campus,” he said. “I think it’s much more important to know if that organization is having a positive impact on its members and if they’re accomplishing their goals together.”