Approximately 15 percent of students at the college are not involved in a student organization of some sort.
For Keri Ellington, that’s a problem.
“I would love for that number to be zero,” said Ellington, who works as the assistant dean for student involvement at the college.
“Those people are choosing not to be engaged in a student organization. Because of what I do, I would love every student to be involved.”
At the beginning of each school year, Ellington and the Student Activities Center requests a list of members from every registered organization on campus.
These registered organizations include clubs and athletic teams, but not other forms of involvement like internships, off-campus jobs and work study positions.
Out of 1,000 students, 154 students are not registered in a student organization.
“I don’t like to assume that because people aren’t engaged they just don’t care,” Ellington said. “Many of our
students have families or work many hours in order to make Franklin College affordable for them.”
For junior and commuter Suzie Sickels, co-curricular engagement didn’t come easy.
Her fall semester of freshman year, she chose not to get involved in any campus organizations.
“A lot of people told me not to get involved in a lot of stuff because it would weigh down my school work,” she said.
“But coming from such a small school, it’s almost impossible to not get involved.”
That spring, Sickels joined Earth Club, which she now serves as treasurer of.
As a commuter, she said that joining a student organization was one of the only ways to build relationships with people outside of her major.
“You don’t have that same opportunity to make relationships with people in your hall or people in your room or at late night or stuff like that because you’re home,” she said. “It’s really hard to just connect with people in general because you have limited time to do it.”
Ellington bases her desire for greater campus involvement on Alexander Astin’s Theory of Involvement, which suggests that students who are engaged and invested in college, in addition to the classroom, are more likely to persist and graduate in four years than those who don’t.
“That is the crux of why our co-curricular programs exist,” Ellington said. “I think we’re lucky at [Franklin College] that, because of our size and scope, there’s just about something for everyone to get involved in. If a student chooses not to do that, it’s almost like they’ve intentionally chosen not to engage in opportunities that our campus has.”
Ellington says she believes there is a point when too much involvement in student organizations becomes a problem.
“Oftentimes, I see when people are involved in five, six or seven things, they’re not doing any one thing well, including academics and co-curriculars, and that’s not fair to that person,” she said. “It does a disservice to their experience. It does a disservice to their faculty, to the other organization members that they’re involved in.”
Ellington said she may pull some of those 154 students who aren’t involved in a student organization and encourage them to get involved.
“You’d kind of be silly not to take an opportunity that’s staring you right in the face,” she said. “We want students
to take advantage of all the opportunities that Franklin College has to offer.”