What makes NCF student clubs successful?
Performers of the Fall 2021 Dance Collective show celebrating during the curtain call, reflective of the community that Dance Collective builds each semester. Photo courtesy of Christine Wehner.

What makes NCF student clubs successful?

Students at New College likely remember their first club fair, or Novopolooza, as a key part of their orientation. Lines of tables hosting information on student run organizations, internship opportunities and local businesses looking to attract students as both employees and customers. Novopolooza is the primary way in which new and existing organizations on campus gain new members and boost engagement and awareness on what their clubs do. But what makes these clubs last? While there are various clubs with long-standing reputations at New College, like the Bull Sharks Dive Club and Dance Collective, many clubs are started and ultimately fizzle out before they even get enough traction to make a lasting impact on campus.

Clubs are a great way for students to get involved with the campus community in a way they enjoy—whether it be sports, performing arts or political involvement. Some of the most popular clubs on campus can be attractors for prospective students to apply to New College in the first place. Almost every student knows of the Bull Sharks and Dance Collective, as two major staples of student life, as well as New Crew SRQ—a Cross College Alliance’s rowing club, that got its start here at New College. 

Students in leadership positions in all three of these clubs were able to provide helpful insight into what has made their specific clubs the important facets of campus life that they are. Despite the differences in activity for these clubs, there were major similarities in what the leaders believed helped make them work functionally. Overall, there were three major aspects that came up in terms of what helped these clubs succeed: communication, passion and accessibility. 

All the clubs mentioned a form of keeping direct communication, both between leaders and to keep members informed. Having ways of directly sending information on meeting times, requirements and providing members with information they might be interested in due to the club’s unique topic. The leaders of the Bull Sharks, thesis students Victoria Goldner and Ce Hampton, said that they often provide members with information on gear, local diving opportunities and general information on the subject of diving. They both agreed that keeping their members well-informed on diving, something that can be dangerous, helps instill confidence in new members and builds their passion for this new skill. 

Making sure that members know when meetings or events are going to be is super important, in the case of New Crew and Dance Collective—regular practices on a consistent basis mean that members can always be sure when they are going to be meeting with their team. All the clubs make sure to keep up constant communication with their members, so they always know when an event is or when they need to fill out some requirement for meetings. 

The club leaders all were in agreement that having knowledgeable, passionate leaders running the club helps to recruit new members and keep current members excited and engaged. Without having strong leadership at the helm of any project, it ultimately would fall apart, so it’s essential when starting a club to make sure it’s something that those who are leading have a sustainable passion for the project.  

Furthermore, it’s equally critical to have an engaged and passionate membership keeping the club afloat. Leadership makes sure to keep their specific clubs fun, and maintain a team based environment by making sure that their clubs don’t simply feel like another obligation on top of their school work. By keeping things well organized and fluid, leaders make it easy and routine to continue membership within the club. 

Additionally, every club fills a specific niche at the school which was not provided beforehand. Dance Collective admins, second-year Pablo Sarmiento and thesis student Rose Schimmel say that Dance Collective “gives the student body an outlet for expression and activity” that otherwise would not be available in such an accessible fashion. The Dive Club provides an easy way for students to get into diving, which is a hobby that is often difficult to get involved in. Same with New Crew, which has the added benefit of being a regular team oriented activity. 

Making it easy for students to get involved with activities is another important part of maintaining a club, thus accessibility in all facets is important. In addition to making sure each club is easy for students of all levels and abilities to get involved with, some clubs have additional accommodations. The Bull Sharks are especially notable as their club is able to work with the Student Allocations Committee (SAC) to divert costs of equipment and classes, which allows for more students to get involved with a hobby which is notoriously expensive. Additionally, The Bull Sharks also make sure to provide their members with price comparison documents on diving equipment and gear. 

All clubs have to go through the SAUCE office to get started and get permissions for certain materials, supplies and events, and likely will have to work with the SAC in order to fund activities. New College is notorious for being a great place for students to be incredibly engaged with their surrounding community, and the administration is more often than not incredibly supportive of these endeavors. Even this past year, new clubs and organizations have been started up on the New College campus, such as the People of Color Union (POCU), and hopefully with the guidance of their predecessors they will see a long-lasting impact on the NCF community.

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