KOKOMO, Ind. — Finding her people played a significant part in Indiana University Kokomo senior Brenna Taitano’s success.
“College is hard to do by yourself,” she said. “Having a group of people makes all the difference. I’ve found a lot of my friends through the English club.”
This semester, she’s served as president of the English club, one of many finding new life after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been getting back on our feet again and have had a lot of students coming to events,” said Taitano, from Cicero. “We’re doing pretty well for a revival.”
Student leaders are proud of the growth and revitalization of clubs during the fall 2022 semester, which are beginning to return to pre-COVID levels.
“It gives you a sense of belonging, and a sense of engagement,” said Mary Hogsett, student body president. “Having events and clubs builds community on campus, telling all students that you belong here. When you have that, it motivates you to stay engaged, which helps academically, too.”
Before the pandemic, she said, IU Kokomo had about 40 student organizations, but dropped to less than a dozen active while classes were remote or hybrid and health guidelines limited numbers of people who could gather.
During the fall 2022 semester, there were more than 25 active clubs, with more requests coming in to start additional offerings.
“It’s been exciting to see how we’ve grown from just a few organizations that had leadership and were hosting events, to a few dozen clubs with active membership,” said Hogsett, from Kokomo, adding that there were several new clubs approved – including an indoor soccer club.
“We’ve really seen a lot more activity and growth,” she said. “All of the club leaders have been very motivated to build their membership and run their clubs well.”
Tess Barker, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, said student groups play a vital role in education.
“Clubs and organizations allow students to connect with peers who have similar interests and create the type of campus life and programming they want to see on campus,” Barker said. “For leaders of the clubs, they also gain experience such as leading a group, managing a budget, and implementing a program. These are skills employers are looking for, and clubs and organizations allow students to gain these in a social and supportive environment.”
Taitano, who graduates in December, said attendance at English club meetings and events has grown through the semester, as they’ve watched movies based on books, and hosted writing hangouts. Mostly, though, the group provides a group of people who understand one another.
“My life is more vibrant because of my friends who share my struggles and give me a reason to keep going when it’s hard,” she said. “Being among a group of people with similar interests gives you a support system. It’s a relief to find people I know taking writing seriously like I do, and it provides a sense of camaraderie.”
Barker noted that a student activities fair on January 18 will allow students to connect with existing student organizations. In addition, Hogsett encouraged all students to visit the Office of Student Life and Campus Diversity, or iuklife.iuk.edu to find out more about existing clubs, or to learn how to start one.