New Students Mean New Clubs at GGC

One of the reasons there will be 750 new students at Georgia Gwinnett College this year is because so many college-bound students relish the idea of getting in on the ground floor of a campus community where they can start a new club and put their unique imprint on an institution that is sure to be around for decades.

“When someone asked on opening day last year if we were going to have a student government, we were told that we would have one as soon as a group of people got together and started the process,” says 22-year-old Andrea Ide, a psychology major who helped found GGC’s Student Government Association (SGA) and also serves on the Psychology Club. “Just knowing that you have the ability to do something so huge promotes a sense of responsibility that I don’t think is present on many campuses. It’s great to be involved in a culture where we’re able to do such monumental things.”

There are already six clubs active at GGC, and because the student governance is now in place, the way has been paved for many more to follow. Current organizations include Biology Club, SGA, Psychology Club, the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), Georgia Gwinnett Golden Guild (Four G’s), and SCRUBS (Starting Careers and Research Using a Bachelor of Science).

“It’s easy to start a club or organization at GGC,” says Dr. Jessica Damian, English professor and faculty advisor for OLAS. “The student affairs division encourages all students and faculty to get involved in developing co-curricular opportunities on campus. For students, it allows them to make their mark at a growing institution. They can take on leadership roles and implement innovative ideas that effect real change. For faculty members, starting a club allows us to enrich the intellectual and civic culture of the College, and form lasting relationships with students.”

Damian decided to become a faculty advisor for OLAS because it was important to her to help create a learning community where students from diverse backgrounds can communicate, experiment with different points of view, and create new and informed perspectives about themselves and their communities. “As a native of El Salvador who came to the United States at the age of seven, I found the challenge of a new language and a new country daunting, but ultimately rewarding. Although Spanish is my first language, I went on to receive a Ph.D. in English literature, but I could not have done that without the help of faculty and administrators who believed in a comprehensive post-secondary education.”

In a way, Damian is “paying back” the encouragement that was shown to her by serving as a mentor for OLAS. “Through OLAS, I want to communicate the belief that a college degree is a viable and worthwhile goal for all students. Through our innovative programs and talented faculty, I wish to show them that it can be done.”

OLAS took shape when students and faculty like Damian began recognizing the educational needs of the Latino community within Gwinnett County, which has grown 600 percent in the past ten years. “Latinos represent a population of underserved and underrepresented students in higher education,” Damian says. “Through its ongoing initiatives, OLAS strives to demystify the college process for students who may not have a history of educational attainment in their families.”

In other clubs at GGC…Psychology Club students learn more about the field through lectures, films, and relevant community service projects—like the time they painted a “Galaxy Room” for the children of the Gwinnett Children’s Shelter. Biology Club students work in tandem with Keep Gwinnett Beautiful, learning first-hand about ecology and environmental science. In an event called “Stream Clean,” they helped improve the water quality of a local stream. Targeted at non-traditional students, the Four G’s club was established to lend guidance to older students as they re-enter the college arena.

When it comes to clubs, GGC is distinct because it provides funding to its organizations based on how well each one accomplishes its self-appointed goals. GGC is a community that promotes a culture of assessment, and students are not exempt. Campus leaders believe this approach teaches students invaluable lessons about accountability and being compensated for a job well done.

To a great extent, GGC’s clubs focus on civic engagement. In fact, the College requires all first-year students to give back to the community by participating in a local service project.

“As part of OLAS, I volunteered to give tours of our campus to 100 elementary, middle, and high school students from the Latin American Association’s summer program,” says Rico Torres, a 22-year-old business major who is involved in SGA and is spearheading a new club, the Business Student Association (BuSA). “For some students, this was their first visit to a college campus. It gave me the opportunity to reach out and encourage them to make college a priority after high school.”

The new Business Student Association will serve as an extension of the business school at GGC. “Members will have the opportunity to build on the skills they learn in class by putting that theory to work in the community,” says Torres. “The club will also provide tutoring for those who need it as well as many exciting leadership opportunities.”

Torres reflects the feelings of many GGC students when he says, “Being able to pursue my passions by creating new clubs, and involving others with the same interests, means putting my fingerprint on something that will last a long time.”

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2007 semester.

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