UFV has historically been a low-engagement campus. With the majority of the student population commuting to and from school, it has always been a struggle to motivate people to stick around longer than they need to. However, over the past few years, it seems to me that the campus has slowly become more engaged.
The most recent Student Union Society (SUS) elections saw more than one candidate running for each of the executive positions; a change from recent years. The student population took notice, resulting in a record-high voter turnout. With the SUS by-election process now underway, it will be interesting to see how the open positions are filled.
A more subjective observation is that people seem to be more interested in joining clubs. I’ve been tabling at the past few U-Join events, and it seems that every time, more students come out. This past week we saw 20 new people sign up for our club, which is more than our current members. Of course, not all of those people will show up to the events, but most of them were excited to sign up. And it’s not just one club. Other clubs and groups I talked to have also seen more people signing up to get involved.
There are concrete reasons why I think this increase in engagement is the case. The one I think has the biggest effect is the space provided by the new Student Union Building (SUB). No longer are the SUS office, CIVL radio, The Cascade newspaper, Student Life, and other services and means to get involved tucked away in far off corners of campus. They’re easily found in an open building that welcomes students to hang out, study, and engage in the campus life.
When the SUB first opened, it took people a while to warm up to it, even graduating students who had spent years at this campus and seen the construction progress seemed confused about where they were supposed to get their U-Pass, campus cards, or student advising. Those students had created habits from years past, staying in the same buildings and places on campus and going home as soon as classes finished.
The new students don’t have these habits. The SUB is introduced to them during NSO (New Student Orientation) as a place to spend time and get involved. I think that as the old students leave and new ones come in, the SUB will get more and more use. As a result, it will be easier for students to see the opportunities to get involved and know about events that are happening. For clubs and associations, the SUB provides a convenient and visible place to hold events as new and varied foot traffic will increase their event attendance.
When I went to NSO in 2012; we toured the campus, but we didn’t go to see several key services or learn specifically how and where to get involved. I was on campus in The Cascade office when NSO happened this year, and when the new students came into the office, a staff member was there to greet them and tell them about the newspaper and how to get involved. I didn’t do that when I went to NSO. I didn’t even know that there was a newspaper.
Maybe these observations are biased. I’m a pretty serious introvert and during my first few years at UFV, I didn’t put any effort into getting involved on campus. The campus never seemed to be a welcoming place where I could hang out for hours and get homework done. It was when I started working on campus and getting involved that I started to see how much UFV has to offer in terms of engagement.
I’m not saying you have to join clubs or always be on campus. But in my experience, putting a little time into the opportunities that arise on campus has been worth more in terms of personal growth than going to class. So to reiterate what so many others have already said: get involved! At the very least just hang out for a few moments — you’ll be surprised by the community that is already there, waiting for you to join them.