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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.

UST Student Guide for Getting Involved on Campus

Starting college is an exciting time in your life, but it can also be a big adjustment. You may be navigating an unfamiliar city far away from family or struggling to balance classes and homework with a social life. Getting involved on campus is one tried-and-true way to enhance your college experience, make friends and gain exposure to new things.

Keep reading to discover some of the many benefits students reap from actively participating in extracurriculars during college. We sought out advice and information from Shundeez Faridifar, Director of Student Leadership and Engagement at University of St. Thomas – Houston (UST). As an alumna of the university and a current staff member, she has unique insight into what’s happening on campus.

Why is getting involved on campus so important?

There are many benefits to being an active participant in your neighborhood, whether that’s at a university or on your own block.

“I’ve never heard of someone regret being involved. But I’ve heard a lot of the opposite,” Faridifar says. “Students will come to me in their junior year having just discovered something they really love and lament that they waited so long.”

Consider these three practical benefits of getting involved on campus:

1.    You’ll become part of a community

Getting involved on campus is one of the best ways to ease your transition into college life. It’s very common for new students to take some time adapting to a new environment.

“Putting yourself out there and meeting new people really helps with feelings of homesickness and isolation that some students feel,” Faridifar affirms.

When should you start getting involved, exactly? The earlier the better, according to Faridifar. “Recently, I met a freshman who was really excited to have a single room on campus, which is great. But I did ask her to promise to do one thing: Leave your room. Don’t just leave class and then go right to bed. You have to get out of your comfort zone and try new things,” she shares.

2.    You’ll gain practical experience and skills

As you become more involved in different events, activities, organizations and/or sports, you find plenty of opportunities to apply what you’re learning in the classroom to real life. Marketing and advertising students, for example, can try their hand at running different kinds of campaigns and communications to drum up awareness for a cause or an event.

Student leaders have the chance to hone important professional skills like email etiquette, as well as sourcing vendors, negotiating terms and filing paperwork. Some clubs also conduct significant fundraising campaigns and manage budgets in the tens of thousands of dollars, which is valuable experience that can be applied to a future job.

3.    You’ll bolster your resume

The experiences mentioned above are all great things to add to a resume. Take some time to identify the key skills you applied and objectives you met to show future employers how you benefited from these opportunities.

The annual new student orientation at UST, for example, is run by juniors and seniors who spend three weeks or more getting everything set up to welcome classmates and their families. Once orientation is over, Career Services professionals help them translate this project management and leadership experience into an item for their resumes.

Students who get involved on campus also develop their skills in teamwork, interpersonal communication, problem solving, networking, and more. 21st-century skills like these can be applied in virtually any industry after graduation.

“Clubs often bring in guest speakers and lecturers, and it’s the volunteers who have to reach out and coordinate everything,” Faridifar explains. “Almost everything you do outside the classroom could potentially help you get a job one day.”

What kinds of clubs are there at UST?

UST offers dozens of clubs, both new and old. They range in type, spanning from academic, to cultural, faith-based, honors-oriented, sports, STEM and art. The university refers to them as “registered student organizations” (RSOs) and they are all run by volunteers.

New clubs are added and lost all the time, as RSO leaders have to apply each year in order to be active on campus. The one permanent club is the Campus Activities Board (CAB), which plans some of the biggest yearly events like the Spring Formal. The CAB is advised by the Office of Student Activities.

Some of the most popular UST clubs include:

  • Psychology Club and Honor Society
  • Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA+0
  • Health Occupation Student Association (HOSA)
  • Pre-health Physicians Students (PHPS)
  • E-sports Club
  • Chess Club
  • Filipino Student Association (FSA)

View the full list of clubs at UST here.

How are new clubs formed at UST?

Not seeing any existing clubs that grab your attention? Consider starting your own! It’s intentionally easy to form a new RSO. You need just five signatures from fellow students, two volunteers to serve as president and treasurer, and a staff or faculty advisor. Fill out the paperwork, turn in a mission statement and the rest of the RSO students vote on whether the club merits inclusion.

It’s very rare for a club to not be approved. Typically, this only occurs when a new proposal is deemed too similar to an existing organization. For more information about rules and regulations, review the RSO Handbook.

Popular events and activities to get involved in at UST

If joining an organization doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, there are plenty of other ways for getting involved on campus. UST has a rich culture that’s full of traditions and events that students look forward to every year.

To give you a better idea, here are just a few of the regular or annual UST events:

  • Praise and Worship – Spiritual gatherings for folks of diverse faiths.
  • Celt Day of Service – Students and staff give back to the local community and campus by volunteering en masse.
  • Homecoming – including a basketball game, tailgating and alumni reunion.
  • Spring Formal – And off-campus tradition where students don their finest and eat in good company. 
  • Neewollah – A longstanding student-run Halloween costume party.
  • Winner Winner Res Life Dinner – The week before Thanksgiving, the Residential Life team makes a full dinner with fixings for everyone on campus. It is very popular with students and a fun communal dining experience.
  • Wonderful Wednesday – Residence advisors put on an event every Wednesday at 9 pm that could be anything from pizza or milk and cookies to a selection of local restaurant takeout.
  • GoodPhil – A huge annual conference held every spring that brings 13 FSA chapters from Texas and Oklahoma together to compete in three different categories of dance and individual sports.

Become a part of the lively UST community

It’s clear that the positives of getting involved on campus far outweigh the negatives, especially at a school like UST that strives to create a fun and engaging environment for students to feel at home.

If you choose to enroll at UST, you’ll immediately be welcomed into the inclusive campus community. We take pride in our ability to help students build genuine connections with their peers and professors, both in and out of the classroom. Discover even more advantages in our article “4 Benefits of Smaller Class Sizes During College.”

Ready to take the next step?

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About UST

The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the religious, ethical and intellectual traditions of Catholic higher education. For more than 70 years, we’ve been graduating students like you into successful careers in medicine, education, business, public administration and more – throughout Houston and across the globe.

Learn more about what UST has to offer.

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