Members of Lehigh's Swing Dance Club step it up in Lamberton Hall.
With choices ranging from a capella groups to water polo to swing dancing, Lehigh offers a club or organization to satisfy almost any personal interest.
The benefits of joining a club, administrators say, extend beyond mere participation. The more than 150 student clubs greatly improve the extracurricular scene at Lehigh and new, innovative activities are constantly being created.
“Starting new clubs and organizations is a fantastic way for students to meet other people, find their niche on campus and also to develop significant organizational leadership skills,” says Allison Gulati, associate dean of students.
Most recently, Gulati oversaw the development of new clubs on campus such as Anime Eki Animation, A Whole Step Up, Engineers without Borders, as well as the Association of International Students and the Microfinance Club.
The Microfinance Club was founded in the spring of 2008 and Colin Sloand ’09 was its first vice president. Two years ago, Sloand was motivated by the book, Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
, by Muhammad Yunus, a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The founding group drafted a constitution, as is required during the club recognition process, and were recognized on a 15-week trial basis. During the fall of 2008, the Microfinance Club was officially established.
Throughout its initial formation, the club made sure to partner with many other groups on campus in order to build connections, share projects, and recruit new members, Sloand says.
Faculty and staff from the Martindale Center and the economics department support the activities of the Microfinance Club.
Last year, the Microfinance Club raised money through a sale of African jewelry that went to support the work of the Alice Visionary Foundation Project in Kenya. Women who receive services from the organization are beginning to start microfinance activities.
One of the club's primary projects this year involves working with small business owners and new companies within the Lehigh Valley.
The Association of International Students is another fairly new student organization that has gained popularity over the past few years, says Ivan Stoev ’09, who serves as secretary of AIS.
“The club was formed by a group of international students who needed an organization where they can organize events on their own and more actively raise awareness of the rich cultural diversity that is present at Lehigh,” he says.
The club aims to enrich Lehigh's student body with different perspectives on the world through the eyes of international students. It serves as a center where students meet, discuss, and socialize with fellow international and internationally aware students.
SueNee Tan ‘09, co-founder of AIS, says the club received a much-needed support from the university during its formation.
“The Office of Student Activities helped us out tremendously. They supported us through the mechanics of founding the club and also helped us with our finances,” she says.
The club continues to be a strong presence on campus and is always involved in some of the biggest events at Lehigh. Last year, they organized the Rock 4 Darfur benefit concert where they raised $2,000 for the Enough Project, an organization dedicated to ending the genocide in Darfur. Since its founding, the club has also helped organize the annual International Bazaar event on campus. This year, AIS is working on another concert, Rock 4 Haiti, in order to raise money for hurricane victims.
Gulati says students who are eager to create new clubs will find that the process is very straightforward, and the Office of Student Activities is willing to assist groups in becoming recognized by the Student Senate.
According to Matthew Kitchie, director of Student Activities, a potential club must meet a set of established criteria before being approved by the Student Senate and begin a mandatory trial period.
The organizers of a fledgling club must: have a distinct purpose that will help further the Lehigh community, design a specific plan that will outline the club’s objectives, complete the petition process as stated in the Club and Organization Recognition and Registration Packet, have an executive board that consists of at least a president and treasurer, and appoint a full-time faculty or staff member to be the club’s advisor.
Students will find guidance from the Student Senate Club Affairs Committee, which serves as a resource and consulting center, and the Student Senate Allocations Committee. which helps students with budgeting and funding.
“The Office of Student Activities has professional staff that serve as resources for clubs and organizations on areas including, but not limited to event planning, officer training, goal setting and answering any questions the group may have," says Kitchie.
--Ilana Rachel Bornstein
Photo by Douglas Benedict