BY CHRIS HUSSEY
During Orientation Week, there’s a lot of information new students are bombarded with. They’ll be introduced to the college and their program, and have several important tasks to do, including getting their ONE Card, purchasing any textbooks required and finding their way around.
But there’s one part of the college experience that students may not have given much thought to: getting involved.
Getting involved on- and off-campus is one of the most common pieces of advice, and it’s also one of the most important.
There’s evidence that volunteering one’s time has significant benefits. In a Forbes article about the benefits of volunteering, the author references a study done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The Forbes author describes the results of this study, pointing out that it, “found that unemployed people who volunteered between 20 and 99 hours during the year were roughly seven per cent more likely to have found employment one year later compared to those who didn’t volunteer.”
Not only that, but being involved in various on-campus opportunities and activities can have a positive effect as well. It can be a chance to meet new friends, increase self-confidence and connect with people of other backgrounds, according to Conestoga College’s Student Life department website.
There are clearly benefits to volunteering and being actively involved in campus activities, but where’s the best place to start? Ian Kearney, student life programmer for transitions at Student Life, said the department offers a Co-Curricular Record (CCR), which is an official document that allows students to receive recognition for their involvement outside the class. Perhaps most importantly, however, it also functions as a search engine to find all kinds of opportunities for students to be involved on- and off-campus.
“The great thing about the Co-Curricular Record is that it’s all housed in that one spot,” he said.
Opportunities on the CCR have attached learning outcomes, and Kearney said these outcomes ensure that students know for certain that these experiences are meaningful and allow them to grow personally and professionally.
The CCR is only in its third year, but has already gained a fair bit of momentum. According to Student Life, there are over 8,000 current users on the CCR. Between Sept. 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016 alone, there were 370 events on the CCR and 4,076 who RSVP’d to these events.
Many of these events and opportunities were through Student Life themselves. The department offers many chances for students to be involved outside the classroom, such as through English conversation partners, Orientation leaders and even leadership workshops.
Outside of Student Life, many departments on campus often use the CCR to showcase their own opportunities. Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) serves as the student association for Conestoga College students, and they have an entire section of their own devoted to providing leadership opportunities. Justine Voll, student engagement co-ordinator at CSI, said she was impressed with the number of students who volunteered their time with CSI last year and that the time students put in can pay off in big ways.
“When you graduate, you’re graduating with 30 or 40 other people who all have the exact same credentials as you … volunteering will set you apart from everyone else,” she said.
Kearney used to work in the marketing department at Conestoga before coming to Student Life, and a big part of that role involved giving tours of the college. He said he often would tell people taking part in these tours that at Conestoga, people have the chance to not only define their community, but also to define themselves.
He added he understands that the huge amount of opportunities can seem a bit overwhelming, and he pointed out that Student Life is here to help.
“We can connect you with our opportunities, we can connect you with the rest of the college through the CCR, and we can connect you with off-campus opportunities as well,” he said. “People here at Conestoga are friendly, and we want you to succeed.”
“If you have any questions, just ask.”