Here's a quick breakdown of 15 things you can do as a First Year (or upperclassman) to get involved with student groups and activities on campus. Duke Launch's motto is "Better members. Better Groups. Better Duke." Our goal is to help people connect with groups that interest them, help groups have more impact on campus, and help students navigate their student involvement experience overall.
1. Go to the Fall Activities Fair this Wednesday (Aug. 30) between 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the East Campus Quad! Hosted by Duke Launch, the Activities Fair brings together representatives from almost all of the groups and activities on campus. Go around to the different tables, chat about what the groups do, and grab some of the free food and stuff (no such thing as too many stickers). Remember to stay hydrated at the water truck too, it can get hot! Like our event on Facebook for reminders and updates about the Fair.
2. Find a Launch agent. The Fall Activities Fair can be a bit overwhelming, so if you have any questions about where to go or what to do, feel free to ask an agent wearing a teal Launch shirt. We will be working in one of the two Launch tents near the bus stop and across from Marketplace. We will have maps and lists of all of the groups attending and special folders for first-years with extra advice on how to get involved.
3. Research Potential Groups. Head over to dukegroups.com to see all of the registered groups on campus. You can search topics you're interested in like "finance" or "animals" and all relevant groups will appear. You can also see events happening on campus and filter those by things like "free food" and "free stuff." There should be contact information for the president of each group on their pages too, in case you want to proactively reach out.
4. Take your time, be yourself, and don’t stress. It's about fit! You don't have to get involved with everything at once, and often better opportunities for you will appear throughout the year. Don't be afraid to join things as an upperclassman.
5. Look out for tables during the year and the Spring Activities Fair. Groups will often set up tables outside of Marketplace, West Union and the Bryan Center. These are also great ways to learn about what groups do. Additionally, Launch hosts another fair in the spring that's more focused on newer groups.
6. Talk to upperclassmen. If they aren't in the club you're interested in, chances are they know someone who is and can connect you. Also, talk to your FAC and RA! They're there to help you, and will have a lot of advice on campus involvement. Another way you can meet upperclassmen is by...
7. Participating in the Amazing Launch! Every year, Launch runs a workshop that combines extreme sports (rock climbing, ropes courses, adventure!) with leadership training. You can meet other leaders and future leaders from around campus, connect, and learn... and it's also super fun! Like Launch on Facebook or Instagram @dukelaunch to be notified about applications.
8. Do talk to as many people as possible at the fair. Don’t just sign up for the list serv(s) but have a conversation. Ask real questions. Make sure you set aside a decent amount of time after or in between classes so you don't feel rushed. You're not going to be able to cover it all, so ask for the representative's email if you need to move on but want to get follow-up information. If you are with a friend, don't be afraid to split up and discover different groups. Sticking with them might prevent you from talking to more groups.
9. Go to meetings. The best way to figure out if you're going to be a good fit is to try it. If you're nervous going in alone, bring a friend with you, or even tag along to meetings they're going to. It's also OK to do something for one semester, and realize it is not working out. You can drop it later on.
10. Know your schedule and plan your groups around it. Be realistic. If you're a pre-med/BME student you probably can't also do a club sport, Duke Student Government, sing in an a cappella group and volunteer at the hospital. Also, be mindful about your future commitments (tenting, recruitment, studying abroad, working on campus. etc.).
11. Attend a Launch workshop. Throughout the year, we run smaller workshops like "Public Speaking" or "Transitioning" to help students and clubs and learn about different resources on campus. We also advise for people interviewing for positions within groups.
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12. Don’t just repeat your high school experience. Branch out. Step outside your comfort zone. Tryout even if you think you won't make it. Never danced before? Go for it! Join a culture group that's different from where you grew up. You never know what you might get really into.
13. But do what you’re good at. Don't feel forced into joining a group that you don’t like just because it looks good on your resume. The more passionate about something, the more you'll want to be involved, and the more you'll get out of it. Being fully involved helps you develop critical soft and transferable skills that will serve you for the rest of your life. Look at group involvement as adding to your holistic Duke experience. Do it for you!
14. Schedule an Appointment with Launch! Launch does one-on-one appointments so you can get personalized advice on how to get involved! We also help executive boards pinpoint their problems and craft a plan based on their needs, run/plan group retreats, and meet with new groups trying to be recognized or chartered by SOFC.
15. Start your own group. Don't see anything you like? You can start your own club. Head over to dukelaunch.org to find out more! If you have any questions feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.