By Leah Johnson, junior social work major

Gannon University has been described as a campus where it is easy to get involved. With the abundance of student-run clubs and organizations, there really is something for everyone. If you don’t see an opportunity for one of your interests, students have the opportunity to create their own group.

Considering this, one of Dr. Parris Baker’s social work classes has been delving into the following questions this semester:

  • Why are so many clubs struggling just to make it through the semester?
  • Who do we ask to address this issue?
  • Should it be the responsibility of the students who are running the organizations?
  • Should this fall to SGA to mediate?
  • Should the SOLD office become more involved in the more intimate aspects of running a student organization?

In Generalist Practice with Communities & Organizations, students are learning how to do social work at the macro-level, within existing organizational structures. They were tasked with choosing a student organization on campus, and working with those students to assess their groups. After meeting with the student group, they would create a plan of action, which would be given to the organization to implement if they so desired. Some of the organizations which were approached by the class include the Social Work Club, the African Student Organization, Pi Kappa Alpha, ICTHAI, and the Model UN.

When asked why he had assigned this task, Dr. Baker responded, “I think our recognized clubs on campus are a vital part of the campus tapestry, but they seem to be struggling. Participation seems to be down, student energy seems to be down. I think that as a function of community service, across the university we are actually burning up our students. So, if we do an assessment of some sort, we can report back to the community what students are saying about their involvement in these clubs.”

As the findings were reported in class, however, it became clear that there was more to this issue than meets the eye. Several themes proved to be constant throughout a majority of the clubs. There is a general lack of participation in group events, even from members of organizations. “Burn-out” occurs regularly for students who attempt to be involved with more than one organization. It is difficult for groups to find sources of funding on campus, and those who rely on SGA for their funding have many others to compete against. Many groups lack adequate leadership training, making it that much harder to accomplish their goals. Furthermore, it was reported multiple times that clubs or groups felt they were straying from their vision or mission statements.

The students who are involved in the study report that they believe this assignment will have a long term effect upon the university. Junior social work major Meredith Gursky says, “This is taking a class requirement and using it to positively impact the university. I’m hopeful that the organizations we are working with will take into consideration our recommendations.”

Her sentiments are echoed by classmate Brittny Eliason, “We are empowering students to create ongoing change for their organizations. It doesn’t stop here.”