The Office of Student Life is making strides to make student organizations more accessible. A lot of students begin their time at UMBC by asking, “how do I get involved?” A lot of the time, the response comes: “go to Involvement Fest.” For some students, however, the hustle and bustle of the event can be intimidating, which means accessibility is imperative to the success of not just Involvement Fest, but all student involvement.
Students, overwhelmed, wander Involvement Fest never finding a group to invest in — assuming they even make it at all. The answer is not easy, but the Office of Student Life is attempting to alleviate this problem.
When asked about Involvement Fest, Sara Leidner, coordinator of student life for student organizations and involvement, said the Office of Student Life is doing their best to make sure “[students] have what they need in advance.” This includes maps and information on what to expect at Involvement Fest. Leidner brought up how OSL’s social media interns created a video of 2014’s Involvement Fest for social media to help new students know what to expect and not feel as overwhelmed.
In addition to helping new students, Leidner also mentioned “paying more and more attention to the student orgs.” She said OSL has been meeting with new student organizations, and teaching them how to be successful at Involvement Fest, especially with soliciting and not overwhelming people. OSL has recently been enforcing a two person to a table rule at Involvement Fest to make tables feel more accessible and inviting to students looking to join.
There is still the question of what happens to the students who are still overwhelmed by Involvement Fest. Leidner mentioned having the list of student organizations more readily available as well as a featured student organization of the week on social media.
More can be done to tackle this problem and the Office of Student Life recognizes this. They are open to feedback and suggestions, and will listen to ideas students may have to help improve student involvement. It becomes the duty of an engaged community to help engage its distant members and OSL is giving students that opportunity.
One alternative that may help those students who don’t feel comfortable attending the physical Involvement Fest experience is a virtual option. If there were an interactive map, where students could click on tables and see all contact information for each student organization, it might allow more breathing room for those who don’t want to wander the Quad. This isn’t to say that one strategy for revitalizing recruitment efforts should be prioritized — just making efforts to increase access outside of the one popular event is a worthwhile effort.
Involvement Fest is clearly shrouded in the best of intentions and has been hugely successful in getting students to be active in the UMBC community, but if it’s going to continue to be the primary outlet for student involvement, it needs to be more accessible to all students at UMBC.