Extra-curricular Involvement in Higher Education: Be Actively Involved in Your Learning

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“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
—Benjamin Franklin

“My résumé is full. Too full—I can’t fit any more lines on one page, but I am still trying. And that’s not a bad thing; and I am not bragging. I am fortunate. I am blessed. Upon returning to post-secondary education after a ten-year hiatus, I was simply looking to finish my bachelor of arts degree, get my diploma, and move on to the next stage of life, whatever that was going to be. Little did I know that I would be drawn out of myself and into experiences outside of the classroom that I could not have imagined.”

There was once a girl who was fortunate enough to have a professor who saw potential in her that she had no idea how to find on her own. For most of her first semester—in spring 2011—she sat there not answering questions for fear of ridicule or shame. But she had things to say—great things—and her eyes lit up at every question asked. Her brain fired rapidly with thoughts and ideas brought to light by every new passage of literature read. It was upon seeing the light and the fire that her professor began to challenge that shy girl to come out of her corner, to come out and face her fears. And slowly, she did—to great effect.

Fast-forward a year. We are now in the spring semester of 2012. This is a big semester for the shy girl in the corner, who now is the moderately-shy girl in the middle row. She now answers most questions, and voluntarily engages herself in class discussion. She has even been coerced into presenting an academic paper at the school’s approaching Environment Summit. In truth, she is actually a bit excited—terrified, but excited. The day for the presentation comes and she is definitely nervous, sweating—she might run. But she does not. She takes her place at the front of the classroom along with the rest of the panel. She finds out she will present first. She…is…going…first. Panic. And then she starts speaking, the nervousness melts away, the excitement takes over, she thrives on the interaction with the crowd—she is hooked on public presentations forever.

“That one big step, thrusting myself into a terrifying and unknown world of vocal expression and ever-glaring stares, was a life changing event for me. It opened a whole new world of involvement outside of the classroom. The options were endless, though admittedly I was compelled to keep chasing them in the challenge to find an end that did not exist. In the same spring semester in which I participated in my first presentation, I took a position as the president of the WIU-QC campus English student organization, IDEAS (Interdisciplinary English and Arts Society). Yes, I started right out of the gates with the top position, and the most responsibility. I loved every minute of the experience. I found that a leadership role suited me well. I held two consecutive terms as IDEAS president, learning and growing from the experience. I also took on a presidential position with another off-campus club, and was reelected for a second term the following year. In semesters to follow, I voluntarily wrote for the River’s Edge Newspaper, and took on the position of QC Liaison for Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society’s Phi Delta Chapter (WIU’s chapter). This past fall of 2013 I humbly accepted the position of QC Editor for the department’s new magazine, The Mirror and the Lamp. I have submitted a number of papers to a variety of journals, and accepted invitations to publically present critical literary essays at two consecutive Sigma Tau Delta annual conventions, each gifting me its own invaluable experience. I also was sure to seek out and participate in internship opportunities that gave a broad and “real-life” perspective of the things we were being taught in the classroom. Now, nearing graduation in May and the closing of my undergraduate career, I am again looking to the future—to the next stage of life. That future is now much brighter than I could have once envisioned it to be. It is a future that no doubt involves further leadership opportunities and a wide world of possibilities that push the boundaries of career and community involvement.”

So what is the not-so-shy girl standing in front of the room saying? “Get involved. Jump in—risk it. I promise you will not regret it. I certainly don’t—and neither does my résumé.”

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