The Voice: Winter 2002

The Voice

Clubs broaden what students learn in class

Art students get aquainted during a pumpkin carving social. Whether they're art majors carving pumpkins together, computer science majors matching students for Valentine dates, psychology students conducting their annual rat race, or youth ministry majors attending a conference, a growing number of students are participating in clubs that help them become more involved with their major.

Clubs of various kinds have come and gone over the years at Dordt. Some exist for only a short time_often while a student on campus with a particular skill is there to give leadership. Examples have been an archery club and a dance club. Others have become institutions themselves_like hockey. But recently, several “major-related” clubs_the Art Club, the Psychology Club, and the Youth Ministry Club_have formed, giving students more contact with others in their major and providing them with information that isn't always available in a regular class.

The new clubs join some long-standing ones like the business department's FBE Club for future business executives and the education department's FACT Club for future teachers. The computer science club has been around for several years, as have three engineering clubs. Like the older clubs, the more recent ones are student-run, but they have a faculty sponsor who works with students to plan events and make them happen.

Senior Annette Elgersma from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a student leader of the
Psychology Club. She says psych students relax and get to know each other better at club- sponsored social activities, but they also hold discussions, often with a professor leading, that push them to think about and wrestle with issues in their field. They recently sponsored a career evening, and each spring they sponsor an experimental psych conference at which students share the results of their research with others in the college community.

Students in the Computer Club offer classes. A student who is proficient in a
specialized area shares what he knows with others who want to learn. According to student organizer Ben Slager, a senior from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, students in the club also want to explore how a Christian servant attitude can be carried out as they use their technical skills. One way they do this is by helping organize the annual computer programming contest for area high schools. They also occasionally tour companies to see how the technology they are studying is used. And then there are game nights where members get together to play networked computer games together_and enjoy each other's company.

FACT Club coordinator Senior Aaron Jansen from Tucson, Arizona, says the club's emphasis on putting students in contact with children meets an important need.

“Future teachers need experience with kids because that is their greatest fear,” he says. The club sponsors a “Kids on Campus” day and also brings in professionals to talk about their topics such as dealing with disabilities.     

The clubs broaden students' education and allow them to form small communities of support. Many students find this invaluable, especially in major areas like art. The Art Club tries to create a community in which students can grow, and offers opportunities for them to experience art. “Because we live in a small community, where all art is not readily available, it is important to be involved on a larger scale,” says club sponsor and Art Professor Susan Van Geest. Van Geest is setting up an online site for students to display their work electronic-ally and critique one another. She hopes this will not only help individual students develop their skills, but also develop their own electronic portfolio.

Student coordinator Eric Van Wyk from Sioux Center plans to schedule a trip to museums in Minneapolis later this year to help inspire ideas and create a broader discussion about the arts. Art majors regularly have an annual “introduction to the department” social at which, among other things, they use their artistic skills for carving pumpkins.

The FBE regularly brings in business people to talk to students, but also sponsors trips to areas with a range of large businesses and Dordt alumni. “Seeing an operation physically is different than learning through classroom lectures,” says club sponsor and business professor Art Attema. “We see marketing concepts we learn in class put into action.”

When club members traveled to Minneapolis last spring, students also planned a luncheon with area alums to ask questions and make connections.

The engineering clubs are all related to professional organizations within the field of engineering, putting students in contact with professionals working in the field. Those interested in electrical engineering belong to a student branch of IEEE (The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers). At a recent meeting they discussed the potential for using wind
energy to generate electricity. Majors interested in mechanical engineering join ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) or ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers) At the regional ASHRAE meeting last month, the speaker discussed variable frequency drives and their many applications in heating and cooling systems.

Establishing support and a sense of camaraderie is an important part of club activities for many of the groups. Senior Kim Stiemsma from Randolph, Wisconsin, says of the Youth Ministry Club, “This club allows people that want to be involved in youth ministry to learn more about it and find support in it. Many students would like to be involved in youth ministry some day but not in a full-time position. This club is great for that.”

Twenty-four students recently returned from a convention put on by Youth Specialties at which they learned about issues and concerns in youth ministry. The club helped organize the trip and serves as a forum for discussion of issues raised at the convention.

Fitting another activity into an already busy college schedule isn't always easy, but club leaders report that while membership is somewhat fluid, events generally draw between fifteen and thirty students, depending on the activity planned. Most seem toappreciate the opportunity to meet informally and talk with others in their major.

“It provides opportunities for discussion of topics that don't get covered in class,” says Elgersma of the Psychology Club.

Slager adds, “It's a lot of fun, and it's great to meet with others who have the same interests you do. And it's a good way to get to know people.”