Student Organizations: Why Bother Getting Involved?

It’s that time of year again. The time of involvement fairs, recruitment, elections, promotional activities, and many other events aimed at increasing engagement and participation in student organizations.

The premise of these events is that student organizations are inherently worth getting involved in. But sometimes involvement can seem like a superfluous exercise in futility; one that is a drain on your valuable time and resources and probably only worth doing for the free pizza.

The questions remains, why bother getting involved at all?

Of course, I can’t answer for everyone involved in student organizations. But I can answer for myself. So, I beg the indulgence of both regular readers of this column as I write about the thing I hate writing about in this space the most: the Exponent and myself.

To start, I’ve always believed in journalism. This character fault I can fairly successfully blame on my family. My father is a journalist in Colorado, and I grew up hearing tales of the trade and having ink-splattered fingers from reading newspapers. Perhaps because of this, I believe a well informed public is a better public and the challenge of using 26 little letters to disseminate information is one worth tackling — even when it seems to be merely yelling into an empty void.

Despite this, I never wanted to be journalist. The long hours, the relentless criticism and the non-stop lifestyle repelled me — and in many ways they still do — especially when paired with the deep cynicism so inherently entwined in the profession. Yet somehow I ended up here.

When I graduated high school, like many, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Relying on a scholarship and a desire to move away from home, I wound up at MSU more by chance and opportunity than actual direction.

After being heavily involved in high school in sports and extracurriculars, when I arrived in Bozeman I vowed I wouldn’t let myself get too involved in any one thing. After all, I thought, college is about exploring many different activities and not nailing yourself to one.

Yet despite my urgent determination and a good share of dabbling in multiple different things, for a large portion of my freshman year I was deeply unhappy with my place at MSU. I felt like I was merely a face in a crowd 14,000 students strong, and I worried my time at MSU would be marked by nothing more than a degree. These deep insecurities manifested themselves in typical ways — a combination of loneliness and Friday nights spent partying.

Then at the suggestion of the then Editor-in-chief Eric Dietrich, I grudgingly, and at the mockery of all those familiar with my “I won’t be a journalist” stance, decided to try out the Exponent.

What I found was an ever-changing enigma formed of a staff of diverse personalities and perspectives. Built from hard work and dedication, the Exponent, like any student organization, unites people in a common cause.

Two years later, after a mix of fortunate and unfortunate circumstances, trial and error, and a lot of hard work, I find myself honored to be tasked with leading this dynamic organization and working with a group of fantastic people to attempt to serve the student body.

So there’s my story. I’m not sure it would or should be counted as a success story by anyone, but it’s a story of getting involved and it being undoubtedly worth it. Though it certainly doesn’t have to be the Exponent, I honestly believe the variety of organizations at MSU offer something for everyone, and I hope students allow themselves to explore their options.