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An organization for everyone

By Amelia Schoeneman '12
September 4, 2012

"My participation in the Chinese Culture Club and International Students Organization pushed me beyond academics to meet many people from different backgrounds and realize we're a community," says Roderick Gui '13, the 2011-12 Student Organizations Committee Coordinator.

At St. Olaf College, you won't find just one student organization devoted to dance. You'll find six, with styles ranging from swing to hip-hop.

And if you're interested in joining a student organization with a focus on Asian cultures, there are eight to choose from — including two focused on Hmong culture alone.

Students interested in joining a campus organization can find one tailored to just about any interest. There's the Ethiopian Student Society. St. Olaf Croquet Club. A Vegan Club. Lotus — Olaf's Buddhist Sangha. The Herpetology Club. A Starcraft Club. StoGrill. Talking Circle. St. Olaf Quidditch Association.

With more than 200 established organizations, St. Olaf students can pursue a wide array of interests from the quirky to the serious. And if a student can't find an organization focused on their (very specific) interest, it's a simple process to create one.

"Because of the speed and ease of creating an organization, niche-oriented groups have really grown on campus," says 2011–12 Student Organizations Committee (SOC) Coordinator Roderick Gui '13, who notes that the SOC approves a new organization almost weekly.

Students can start an organization with just the click of a mouse at Oleville.com, the student life website run by the Student Government Association. After students draft a constitution and locate an advisor, they are well on their way to becoming an official student organization.

For Gui, originally from Shanghai, the diversity of opportunities to get involved on campus foster a strong sense of community and belonging.

"My participation in the Chinese Culture Club and International Students Organization pushed me beyond academics to meet many people from different backgrounds and realize we're a community," he says.

Events like International Night exemplify how organizations create a tight-knit community. International Night brings together St. Olaf's many multicultural organizations and interested community members for an evening of entertainment from a global perspective, including bollywood dancing, taiko drumming, and cuisine from around the world. "The whole campus gets involved," Gui says.

Organizations even pursue ambitious service projects with the support of SOC funds. Help Turkey, a temporary student group established after that country's 2011 earthquake, sent winter clothes to earthquake victims using SOC support for shipping costs. The St. Olaf Global Medical Brigade secured SOC funds for additional medical equipment for their trip to Honduras this past January, where members spent a week providing health care in rural communities.

"The role of the SOC is to give every group an opportunity to do great things," Gui says. "We want to provide existing organizations with funds and start new organizations because they are the engine of great events and opportunities on campus. The diversity of organizations helps students explore what others believe, which truly enhances campus life."

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or vanderve@stolaf.edu.