Student organizations receive advice from social work club


Gannon University has been described as a campus where it is easy to get involved. With the abundance of student-run clubs and organizations, there really is something for everyone—and if you don’t see it, you have the opportunity to create your own group.

So why, then, are so many clubs struggling just to make it through the semester? Who do we ask to address this issue? Should it be the responsibility of the students who are running the organizations? Should this fall to SGA to mediate? Should the SOLD office become more involved in the more intimate aspects of running a student organization?

A class taught by Parris Baker, Ph. D., an assistant professor of social work, has been exploring this issue in depth this semester. In Generalist Practice with Communities and Organizations, students are learning how to do social work at the macro level, within existing organizational structures. They were tasked with choosing a student organization on campus, and working with those students to assess their groups.

After meeting with the student group, they would create a plan of action, which would be given to the organization to implement if it so desired. Some of the organizations that were approached by the class include the Social Work Club, the African Student Organization, Pi Kappa Alpha social fraternity, ICTHI and the Model UN.

“I think our recognized clubs on campus are a vital part of the campus tapestry, but they seem to be struggling,” Baker said. “Participation seems to be down; student energy seems to be down. I think that as a function of community service, across the university we are actually burning up our students.

“So, if we do an assessment of some sort, we can report back to the community what students are saying about their involvement in these clubs.”

As the findings were reported in class, however, it became clear that there was more to this issue than meets the eye.

Several themes proved to be constant throughout students who attempt to be involved with more than one organization. It is difficult for groups to find sources of funding on campus, and those who rely on SGA for their funding have many others to compete against.

Many groups lack adequate leadership training, making it that much harder to accomplish their goals. Furthermore, it was reported multiple times that clubs or groups felt they were straying from their vision or mission statements.

The recommendations that the class will pass along to the clubs have been tailored specifically to their needs. Students Against Violence Everywhere, or S.A.V.E., wants to increase student participation, particularly among male student-athletes.

It is recommended that they table in places other than Waldron Campus Center, and promote the club at related events that are already established on campus, like Take Back the Night.

The social work department would like to change how it is perceived on campus—while it is often recognized for its service to the university and community, it is not often recognized for academic rigor.

Therefore, students will be assisting in implementing a chapter of the Pi Alpha Honor Society for Social Work.

Phi Kappa Epsilon, or PIKE, would like to increase participation. It is recommended that the fraternity make meetings mandatory, make meeting times consistent, and hold all meetings in the same location.

The students who are involved in the study report, including  junior social work majors Meredith Gursky and Brittny Eliason, believe this assignment will have a long term effect upon the university.

“This is taking a class requirement and using it to positively impact the university,” Gursky said. “I’m hopeful that the organizations we are working with will take into consideration our recommendations.”

Eliason said the report is not an ending, but a beginning.

“We are empowering students to create ongoing change for their organizations,” she said. “It doesn’t stop here.”




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