Balance must be found between academics and ‘overinvolvement,’ students say

Involvement in general, not just in MSA, provides many benefits and great experiences to students, Kate Hargis said.

Student involvement on campus can provide leadership and growth opportunities. Students choose to join organizations based on what fits them best, or where they think they will have the most growth.

However, come sophomore year, it is common for students to decrease their involvement and gravitate toward particular organizations, said Ben Bolin, Missouri Students Association Senate speaker.

Bolin started keeping track of MSA members who quit at the beginning of the fal 2014 semester. The most frequent reason for leaving was “overinvolvement” with other organizations, he said.

“You have a duty to represent the students, but being a student comes first,” Bolin said. “If academics are what you value the most and being overinvolved in Senate is what prevents you from making those academic responsibilities happen, it’s totally understandable.”

He said he believes this is due to freshmen trying to find their place on campus, then narrowing their involvement to certain organizations sophomore year.

“I think freshman year we all metaphorically feel out what the situation is,” Bolin said. “Sophomore year, you’re a little more defined. You want to spread your wings in an organization, and if you don’t see that opportunity (to grow) then you prioritize certain organizations over the others. Sophomore year is a key time in a student’s life where they’re thinking about moving on and where they’re going to move up.”

Students choose the organizations to stay in based on what fits them best or where they will see the most growth.

Junior Jeremy Terman, a former senator in the Student Affairs committee and a former member of the Department of Student Services, was involved in other organizations where he thought he could grow more, so he quit MSA during his sophomore year.

“I felt like I wasn’t making a big enough of an impact (in Senate),” Terman said. “I thought I could make more of an impact in my fraternity. I’m not saying MSA doesn’t do anything. I’d rather devote my time to something I felt I could benefit from more.”

His schedule also infringed on his involvement elsewhere on campus and in class.

“MSA was very structured, so every Tuesday and every other Wednesday I had to be there,” Terman said. “It was a hassle to leave class, change my schedule and sit for three hours when I had a test the next day or later in the week. The timing of the meetings didn’t fit well with my schedule and I started to get busier (with other organizations), so my time to study got in the way.”

Kate Hargis, a former senator, MSA Outreach Committee member and deputy chief of staff under former President Kelsey Haberberger and former Vice President Matt McKeown, also chose to leave MSA because she was involved with other organizations.

“I took so much on my freshman year,” she said. “My classes were hard freshman year, but nothing compared to what they are now. School is my number one priority, so I had to prioritize what I really liked to do most on campus.”

Terman said there wasn’t enough opportunity for him to grow in Senate, which was also a contributing factor to his departure.

“My goal at Mizzou was to run an organization, and I am now (at my fraternity),” he said. “I saw that Senate wasn’t going to be somewhere where I could be a leader. I was a leader among other senators, but not the chairman or Senate speaker. Because I didn’t see myself progressing in the future, I joined other organizations that I could do so.”

Mark Lucas, director of Student Life, said he believes involvement and leadership on campus is about providing growth opportunities.

“You need to give people more and more challenges,” Lucas said. “You have to create leadership opportunities where you have something different to do and have more responsibilities. You’re more likely to want to stay in that organization because you’re going to have a new role. If you have the same one, you think you’re going to go somewhere else.”

Bolin agrees with Lucas that involvement is about growth, and said he hopes to increase senator retention by stressing to senators the importance of their position as campus representatives.

“It’s on us to push the value onto the senators to make it very clear that the projects, ideas and the work you do as a member is showing leadership,” Bolin said. “It’s something you can put on a resume, something that could make this campus better. And if we show that, the opportunity for growth as well as a continued push to make our responsibility as senators bigger, I think we can curve those numbers.”

Bolin encourages his committee chairs to increase senator retention by accomplishing a short-term goal early on in the semester to add motivation.

“Leadership is all about momentum,” he said. “When you get that initial ball rolling, it makes the next task easier and makes the long-term goal seem accomplishable. It makes opportunity visible and I believe that’s what will keep senators here.”

Lucas said involvement is also important because college is the best time to gain leadership experience and will help toward getting a job.

Employers don’t necessarily hire people based on their major or GPA, he said. They’re looking for people who gained real-world experience while in the comfort of a college campus.

When a student interviews, employers are looking for how that student overcame challenges, demonstrated growth and understood themselves.

Employers are also looking for people with strong skill sets, such as working in a team and communication and listening skills.

“These are all things you have to learn,” Lucas said. “You cannot read them in a book or learn them in a classroom. You have to experience them. A college campus allows for that experimentation and that growth to take place in a comfortable and safe place. A resume gets you an interview. You get hired because you can tell stories and talk about leadership.”

Hargis encourages other students to get involved in MSA because it can help a student find more organizations to join as well.

“MSA is a really great place to find where you want to be on campus,” Hargis said. “You get to work with the entire university, different organizations throughout Mizzou and feel out what you want to put your most time in. A lot of people who join their freshman year find what they’re supposed to do. Some stay in MSA because they would rather be in the student government, and other people realize it’s just not for them.”

Involvement in general, not just in MSA, provides many benefits and great experiences to students, she said.

“Involvement gets you out of your comfort zone,” Hargis said. “You gain so many skills; whether it’s personal skills or meeting with faculty and staff, you just gain a lot of confidence.”

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