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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

From student members to student leaders


UC Davis clubs offer opportunities for leadership, community

In order to get involved on campus, students often turn to clubs and organizations to find a sense of community, leadership and professional and personal development. With over 800 clubs on campus, students have ample opportunities to find communities that align with their cultural, professional and personal inclinations.

While joining an organization provides students with community and an outlet to pursue their interests, it also provides them with a platform to potentially gain leadership experience. By joining clubs and staying passionate and committed, students have the potential to go from participating in events and meetings as a general member to contributing more on the leadership staff.

Caroline Cho, a third-year human development major, is currently on the leadership team for Mustard Seed Ministry, a Christian organization on campus. She joined as a freshman and remained an active member of MSM throughout her experience at Davis.

“The reason why I initially became involved with [this organization] was because my dad was in Mustard Seed Ministry when he was an undergrad at UC Davis, so I already had that connection,” Cho said. “Some of my dad’s community is still here so I wanted to contribute to that.”

While Cho wanted to contribute to and be a part of her MSM’s community, she notes that her route in the organization followed a path that she didn’t initially anticipate.

“I didn’t expect to take on a role like this when I was a freshman,” Cho said. “It was weird going from a general member to a leader [in the organization]. I’m used to participating in [events], and now I’m in a more administrative role. It’s interesting to see myself in a position that I didn’t see myself in before.”

Students become passionate about their organizations for a variety of reasons; some students hope to give back, while others find like-minded community that may contribute to their personal interests. Karna Chelluri, a second-year managerial economics major, became involved with his club, the Finance Investment Club, after transferring to UC Davis from a business school.

“I wanted to keep some of the business aspect of the school I went to last year,” Chelluri said. “When I got to Davis, I wanted to look for business clubs and [my friend] told me to apply for FIC.”

The process for rising to leadership varies with each organization; some clubs require an extensive application and interview process, while other leaders are voted in by a general consensus of its organization members. When Chelluri joined FIC, he found that his previous professional and club experience gave him a leg up in joining their leadership team.

“There was an application process, and I applied to be treasurer along with everyone else,” Chelluri said, who was later offered the position of vice president instead. “I was VP at my old school’s investment group so I already had previous experience being on an executive board; I figured it would fit well.”

In contrast, Cho had a slightly different experience than students in other organizations entering into her leadership position in Mustard Seed Ministry.  

“How the coordinators are selected isn’t necessarily because someone is voted up, but who is willing to serve and it just snowballs from there,” Cho said. “I had just not been able to join ROTC and I was seeking a leadership position because ROTC played a huge portion in my life and now it was gone.”

Cho reflected on how an experience in a club changes drastically as a student goes from a new member to a veteran. Older students shape how new members of the organization are welcomed in and experience what the club has to offer. As such, young members eventually take over the leadership roles in the community, and in turn, welcome new members into the organization.

“Lowerclassmen gauge how much they’ll get out of it when they go to new orgs,” Cho said. “But when you’re an upperclassmen that’s been committed to an organization for a while, it’s less about what you’ll get out of it but more what you put into it.”

Entering into a leadership role, students are able to better understand the work that goes into planning small and large scale events. Alisha Nanda, a third-year computer science major, had prior experience with HackDavis before joining the leadership team, attending hackathons and participating in their events throughout previous school years.

“Before joining, I only got glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes and how much work goes into a hackathon, often taking things like wifi and power for granted,” Nanda said. “After joining the leadership team, I’ve come to appreciate all the small details that make our hackathon special and the hard work behind each and every aspect of the event.”

Nanda attributes her interest in joining the leadership team to her past experiences participating in hackathons.

“I was intrigued by the process of organizing a hackathon and curious to see how such an event comes together,” Nanda said, explaining her interest in joining the leadership team. “Especially since I had never experienced event planning before.”

Students on club executive teams tend to be passionate about their community and put in the time and effort necessary to improve their organization.

“There really is no fixed time commitment when you’re a leader for an organization,” Chelluri said. “For me, I’ll do anything I can to make my club better. If that means putting in extra hours, then I’ll do it.”

While finding the right club can positively contribute to a student’s college experience, student leaders emphasize the importance of maintaining community outside of any specific organization they may be a part of.

“[My organization] is an integral part of my life, but it’s important for me that I balance my friend group and have other friends outside my organization,” Cho said. “It’s so easy to get trapped inside your own organization’s bubble and not branch out at all.”



Written by: Alyssa Hada — features@theaggie.org



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