Diversity, belonging, leadership define student life offerings at Lehigh Valley

a group of male students playing instruments

Members of the Music Club perform during a campus event.

Credit: Penn State Lehigh Valley

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) students looking to get more involved on campus don’t need to look far. One glance at the Student Life calendar on the campus’ website, digital signage, or social media, and it’s clear there is no shortage of events on campus. Whether students are looking to get involved in a club or organization, attend a program, or have a little fun to unwind and de-stress, the Office of Student Affairs can help them find what they are looking for.

Getting involved in a club or organization is an important part of a student’s college experience, according to Pam Fleck, assistant director of student affairs.

“It’s really what the student makes it. It’s a way to enrich what the college can give them, build connections and friendships with other students, and create a sense of belonging. I think the faculty help to instill that sense of belonging, but broadening your experience through clubs and activities is so important,” she said. “Getting involved gives students the chance to feel like they belong at Penn State through touch points outside of the classroom.”

The 30-plus clubs and organizations currently offered at PSU-LV fall into four broad categories — community service-oriented, cultural and religious, academic, and personal interest. Students are also welcome to start their own club. “All they would need to do is contact Student Affairs, develop a constitution, recruit members, and find an advisor. It’s very easy to start a new club,” Fleck said.I

t’s not just about meeting other students with similar interests, though that’s definitely a big draw. It’s also about giving back, getting involved in the community through service projects and initiatives for the campus, and using different skills. “Community Heroes is a service-oriented club. They do initiatives like Take What You Need, which is a board filled with positive messages that students can take when they need a ‘boost.' They’ve also created a 'random act of kindness' tree. The club is meant to be in the community to help others, but they give back to campus, too,” Fleck said.

For example, in April the Community Heroes club teamed up with the new Women’s Empowerment Club for “Live, Love, Lavender.” The event featured a Make and Take garden pot craft — one for students to paint and decorate for themselves, and the other to paint and give away to a resident of BLOOM, a residential center in Bethlehem for women who were victims of sex trafficking. “Lavender seeds were also included. A speaker from BLOOM attended the event and shared information about the agency,” Fleck said.

PRIDE month was celebrated in April with several events. An information table with giveaways was available during week one, Queer Educator Jacob Kelley presented a session on LBGTQIA icons, places and time and biases, as well as a drag performance during week two, and for week three, Bradbury Sullivan LGBTQ center attended for a tabling event.

The Music Club is an active club that’s made a big impact on campus. The group is open to students with musical skill of all kinds, whether singing or playing an instrument, and meets in the Music Room to practice, jam, and de-stress. The club hosts a regular karaoke singalong and a monthly student showcase in the cafeteria, which primarily highlights club members but is open to any student wishing to show off their talents. Club members have also performed at special campus events like the scholarship dinner.

“Club members truly value the chance to continue their hobby while in college, and music offers a great connection for all of our students,” Fleck said.

Getting involved helps students build and apply skill sets they typically don’t use in the classroom.

“There are so many benefits to getting involved. For one, students gain leadership and time management skills. They give back to campus. It helps balance the stress of coursework. And, being active on campus lets students apply the knowledge they’re acquiring in their classes. For instance, a finance major might want to join the Student Activity Fee Board. It’s a great boost for a resume,” Fleck said. “I tell students, being active on campus helps set you apart from other applicants, and those experiences give you very good talking points during an interview. For example, if a student is asked, ‘Can you tell me about a time when you had a stressful situation and had to think on your feet?’, they can call on different experiences from their campus involvement, especially leadership roles.”

The Office of Student Affairs holds an Involvement Fair every fall to educate students about the various clubs and organizations on campus. This year’s event is set for Wednesday, Sept. 4, but students can get involved at any time. Check out the jam-packed Student Affairs calendar for an up-to-date listing of what’s going on around campus.

For more information about the Office of Student Affairs, contact Fleck at [email protected].