New School Year = New Student Orgs

With more than 250 student organizations at Marquette, some students may have a hard time finding their niche, let alone starting their own organization. This semester, however, two organizations have begun their journey to approval. The Water Conservation Club and Nonviolent Study Group are at two different phases in the approval process, but both groups have taken the first step — which may be the hardest part.

The Water Conservation Club

The Water Conservation Club, co-founded by organization president John Ross, a senior in the College of Engineering, and graduate Engineering student Ben Bocher, was recently approved by MUSG. The club’s mission has Milwaukee and the Great Lakes close at heart.

“We’re located by a Great Lake, and the Great Lakes make up 20 percent of the world’s available freshwater,” Ross said. “We want to take a leading role in water technology and take us to the next step in society’s interaction with water, through a network of educational and business and other organizations.”

Their goals don’t end there.

The organization’s mission statement identifies their primary objective is to “align the regional freshwater research community and water-related industries to establish the Milwaukee 7 Region as the World Water Hub for water research, economic development, and education.” The Milwaukee 7  is an organization made up of companies who work toward strategic economic development.

The Water Conservation Club, whose faculty advisor is McGee Young, assistant professor of political science, keeps this affiliation in mind.

“We started a student chapter just to bang our drums, but students need jobs,” Ross said. “We’re trying to make Milwaukee very desirable and (use to our advantage the fact that) it’s linked to water.”

According to Ross, Milwaukee was named one of the United Nations’ global compact cities, recognized for its expertise in maintaining and improving freshwater quality.

The group has already undertaken some activities. Ross said some members toured a boat run by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District (MMSD) that accurately measures water quality.

Ross said the club plans to work on water projects like creating cisterns for urban gardens, and is already initiating a rain barrel program to prevent flooding of the sewers during rainfalls as part of their community outreach.

What’s next for the organization are events that echo the organization’s mission, including an MMSD river restoration tour and a tour of the school of Freshwater Sciences at UW-Milwaukee.

The Nonviolent Study Group

The Nonviolent Study Group, unofficially on campus for three years, is currently still seeking its final approval.

“We’re a student-led group that looks at nonviolent theory and how it’s being used today to learn about peacemaking and building community, since violence destroys community,” said Nora Kennelly, a Nonviolent Study Group member and senior in the College of Education.

The group studies nonviolent theory extensively and offers the opportunity to talk with specialists in a particular area of nonviolence.

“Each week we educate ourselves on a different movement,” Kennelly said. “The next week we Skype with someone who’s an expert in that area and see what we can learn from them.”

A goal of the group is to change the way students and society view peacemaking.

“Peacemaking isn’t this lofty high goal that only a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, Jr. or Oscar Romero can work at,” Kennelly said. “It’s a part of each of our lives, which is why different fields are important. A part of peacemaking is creativity—seeing things in a variety of ways and being able to develop creative solutions.”

The group currently has 15 members attending weekly meetings, but according to Kennelly, the group would like to see solid commitment rather than large numbers.

“We would really like to just have a community of committed members,” Kennelly said. “It’s up to us what we do and what activities we participate in. Everyone’s welcome, it’s not a strict contract, people can come and go. It would just be nice to have a committed group that we can decide together as a group what we would like to do.”

As for the process of getting approved, Kennelly says the requirements were not too much to ask.

“I don’t think the process was too laborious, just a matter of getting organized,” Kennelly said. “(We) didn’t struggle to get signatures. Getting an advisor is where a lot of groups struggle, especially student-led groups.”

The Nonviolent Study Group’s advisor is Dr. Irfan Omar from the theology department.

“We’re really lucky to have him,” Kennelly said. “He’s wonderful,” Kennelly said.

The Approval Process

Though Kennelly found that getting organized and finding an advisor are the biggest challenges to forming a student organization, there may be some who find the waiting game even more daunting.

This was the case with Ross and the Water Conservation Club. The approval process took a little longer than usual.

“We were held up over the summer, so it took a couple months,” Ross said.

This delay is not common, according to Ian Jamieson, Coordinator for Student Organizations and Leadership with OSD. Jamieson is responsible for overseeing the processes of all student organizations, including the recognition process.

Jamieson says there are a number of factors that can affect the time it takes for a student organization to be approved.

“Most organizations take four to six weeks or a little bit longer, rather than five to six weeks,” Jamieson said. “But it varies depending on time of year, with finals or midterms (a factor while) they draft their constitution.”

Though there are several steps to getting final Office of Student Development approval, Jamieson offers tips for students looking to organize.

“Being patient and understanding that there is a process can help,” Jamieson said. “I think the other piece is just really getting a core group (of members). Oftentimes we see there is a long list of people who sign the form, but when we talk to them it’s not passion but, ‘Oh, I would like to see this on campus.’ Some start but don’t continue past a year or two.”

Jamieson said finding a consistent group of members that includes students from all age levels is key to ensuring the success of an organization.

While some may grind their teeth at the various forms and meetings needed to organize, Sterling Hardaway, chair of Marquette Student Government’s Student Organizations Committee and a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, believes the process is important for new organizations.

“I don’t think it’s a particularly frustrating process,” Hardaway said. “It’s a necessary process … any new student organization shouldn’t be rushed into. It should be something that is planned.”

Because student organizations can receive funding from the Student Activity Fee through MUSG, Hardaway’s committee members have a say in which organizations get approved and which do not.

Though the Student Organizations Committee’s vote is not the final determinant of approval, Hardaway says they have not rejected any organization this school year. In fact, they have approved five, including the Water Conservation Club, Marquette Quidditch, Grand Strategy Club, U.S. Green Building Club and For the Kids, an organization that raises money for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Like Jamieson, Hardaway offers advice to students looking to organize.

“Do your research on what student organizations are already on campus,” Hardaway said. “Instead of creating a new group, you can put goals into an already existing group. If something you want doesn’t exist, I would definitely go for it … Plan out how it’s going to be inclusive and sustain(able) after you leave.”

 

The Water Conservation Club meets the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. Contact John Ross at [email protected] for more information.

The Nonviolent Study Group meets every Wednesday from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking at 735 N. 17th Street, room 201. Contact Nora Kennelly at [email protected] for more information.