Students find ties that bind, from Pershing rifles to Jane Austen

by Rebecca Czaplewski

Hawaii native Erica Bradshaw’s first exposure to a Minnesota winter was only one of the many adjustments she had to make after moving here to attend the University three years ago.
Although Bradshaw, a senior in the Institute of Technology, describes her first winter as being mild compared to others she later experienced, the cold weather was a major reason she decided to found the Hawaii Club at the University, which currently has 15 active members.
“We’re really a support group,” Bradshaw said. “It’s like culture shock coming here.”
The typical University student attends a school with more than 40,000 others; he or she might live in a dorm with 1,000 others or sit in a lecture with 500 students. But for some students, one way to bring the University down to a more personal level is to join a small organization dedicated to a unique interest.
Student clubs and organizations are a large part of the college experience for many students. According to the Campus Involvement Center, there are 277 officially registered student groups at the University, although administrators would not make an estimate on the percentage of students involved in organizations.
All it takes to become an official group is three students and $15, with some benefits included in the fee. Each registered group receives free e-mail for their organization and a University-sponsored World Wide Web site.
But for every well-known student organization with a large number of members, like the Minnesota Student Association, there are other groups such as the Hawaii Club that thrive despite the fact that their member count might never rise to more than 20.
The Campus Involvement Center keeps an up-to-date, comprehensive list of all student organizations with a contact member’s name and phone number, although it doesn’t keep a member count of the organizations.
“It’s kind of hit and miss because members change all the time,” said Vicki Larson, financial consultant at the center.
Being a registered group through the Campus Involvement Center gives the organization a chance of receiving student service fees or grants through the University.
Twenty-three student groups that meet the criteria for receiving student fees. To qualify for funds, groups must meet seven requirements outlined by the Board of Regents.
For smaller organizations for which the student service fee requirement seems impossible to attain, there are grants available through the University.
The grants, which are awarded throughout the year, are usually given to a group that is planning an event to reach a large section of the University community. Any group, regardless of size, can apply for the grants.
A board made up of staff and student representatives decides which groups are awarded grants.
Because the Campus Involvement Center tries to make sure that most groups that apply for grants won’t go away empty-handed, smaller groups such as the Hawaii Club are able to host events.
Last spring the club organized a luau to heighten awareness of the Hawaiian culture. The event, which was free to the more than 250 people who attended, featured a live Hawaiian band, hula dancers and native Hawaiian flowers. Bradshaw said the luau, which cost $4,500, would never have been possible without the grants the club won.
Small organizations such as the UM Cricket Club, Macintosh Users Group and the “I Wish I Had More Information” Club, a group that digs up information on any issue, have all considered applying for the grants. Although each group has less than 20 members, they were all aware of the resources they could get from the University.
Michael Childe, president of the Information Club, said the group has considered taking advantage of the grants in the past.
“We had thought about it before if we were going to do heavy research in the past,” said Childe, an IT senior.
Most members said their groups’ small enrollment and relatively low costs kept them from seeking outside sources for funds, although they felt that it was helpful to know the money is available.
UM Cricket Club member Saqib Ali, a freshman in IT, looked to the future of his five-member organization.
“After about a year, we’ll start applying for grants,” he said.