Involved students receive more than just classroom education

By Michael P Garrett

It’s 3 o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday and Alek Joyce is just getting into bed after pulling a late-night bartending shift at Louise’s West. He tosses and turns in his bed until he finally falls asleep around 3:30 a.m.

The next thing he knows, his alarm clock is ringing and it’s time to get up. Five and a half hours is just not enough sleep for the busy day that lies ahead.

Joyce checks his emails and maps out whom he needs to contact throughout the day. After skipping breakfast, he scurries to campus to make sure he’s on time for his campaigns class at 9:30.

Once class ends, Joyce heads down the hill to Dole to work in the UDK office where he works as an account executive for the advertising staff. After about an hour or so in the office, Joyce grabs lunch at the Underground.

From 2 until 4 p.m., Joyce has an assortment of meetings for Student Senate, professors and anyone else who requests his time. After his meetings, Joyce tries to do some errands around town, and grabs dinner on the go before Senate at 6 p.m.

Student Senate meetings can last anywhere from two to three hours, so Joyce doesn’t start on his homework until 8:30 or 9 p.m. Joyce will typically leave the library around 10 p.m. and head home for some “cool-down” time, which usually consists of laundry and chores around the house.

Finally, the clock strikes twelve and Joyce is asleep.

This seems like a full week to the average student, but to Alek Joyce, this is Wednesday.

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According to Rueben Perez, director of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, the estimated number of involved students on KU’s campus rings in at about 17 or 18 percent. This means of the 28,000 students that go to KU, only about 5,000 students are involved.

Being “involved” means that students are engaged on campus in some capacity other than just going to class. This includes Greek life, on-campus jobs, membership in a club, or holding a leadership position on campus, Perez said.

The more you look around places like the Kansas Union – the mecca of involved KU students – it appears the same students are doing everything.

Alek Joyce, a senior from Lawrence, certainly fits this assumption. He is almost a consensus pick for “most involved student at KU.”

During his KU tenure, Joyce has participated in the following: The Big Event, SUA, Alternative Breaks, Student Senate, Hashinger Arts Council and LeaderShape. And that’s only counting his past endeavors. Currently, Joyce is a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, a DJ for KJHK and is still involved with Student Senate. Not to mention the three jobs he works, including bartending at Louise’s West, working the KU Info desk, and having a paid position with the University Daily Kansan.

To the average college student, this seems like way too much handle while still attempting to make decent grades. While Joyce loves being involved on campus, he admits it has hurt his work in the classroom.

“It’s a wild beast,” Joyce said on balancing academics and involvement. “It has shown me my limits.”

However, Joyce said what he has learned through involvement far outweighs what he has learned in the classroom.

“Most of the time I sit in class and feel like I am being taught things I already learned through involvement,” Joyce said.

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Alex Beck, a senior from Newton, has his own version of a busy day. He wakes up early and heads up the hill for a full day of class. On his busiest day, Thursday, Beck is on campus for nearly eight and a half hours. The only break he gets during the day is a 45-minute lunch with his sister.

Unlike Joyce, Beck spends most of his time studying and working on assignments, rather than involving himself with clubs and organizations.

Beck is satisfied with his grades in school and attributes a lot of his success in the classroom to good time-management skills.

“To me, it’s not something that I have to learn from being involved in a club,” Beck said on managing his time. “I learned it on my own.”

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So what’s the answer to college satisfaction? Is it more beneficial to become incredibly involved or focus on hitting the books?

Perez would argue involvement is a vital part of a student’s education. According to him, students who only go to class are academically successful, but not educated.

“You’re not here for a degree, you’re here for an education,” Perez said.

Taking a leadership role or becoming involved in a club teaches students things such as building confidence, working with a diverse group of people, time management, organization and inter-personal skills.

Perez said the skills involved students learn carry over into the workplace and make them successful post-graduation.

“The patterns involved students have as undergraduates carry into their career,” Perez said. “Involved students will go to their job and suddenly they’re a part of staff development or recruitment team. They do the extra.”

J.J. O’Toole-Curran, the director of union programs, which oversees organizations such as SUA, the Big Event, CCO and KJHK, said students often decide on a career path based on their involvement at KU.

“Students will evolve what they do post-grad pertaining to what they work on within union programs,” O’Toole-Curran said.

O’Toole-Curran said students who help plan SUA events will go on to be event planners, CCO produces a lot of people who will go on and conduct service work and KJHK influences students to take jobs in the media post graduation.

“When you’re involved, it opens your world to a few more opportunities,” O’Toole-Curran said. “You can find your niche.”

Alek Joyce agrees with O’Toole-Curran. He said his involvement has helped him figure out what career path to take.

Joyce bounced around several majors, including architecture, political science and now, strategic communications. He is thinking about pursuing a career in higher education because he thinks it will be a good way to continue the work he has already done at KU.

“I want to help others achieve,” Joyce said. “I want to make students’ ideas come to life and allow them to find their passion.”

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Is it possible to develop skills and find a career path without being involved? Alex Beck thinks so.

According to him, you can learn similar skills through working a job.

“You still have to work with others and manage your time just like anything else,” Beck said.

Beck was involved at his high school but decided to take a break in college so he could enjoy his time before starting the workforce.

“Maybe I’m just OK with being a follower,” Beck said. “I have leadership skills but I don’t mind following. There are a lot of good leaders at KU.”

The 78 percent of KU students who seem OK with following better hope the 18 percent of involved students don’t get burnt out.

According to Rueben Perez, without the extra activities provided by involved students, KU would look a lot less like a university and more like a trade school. Student life is one of the biggest contributors to the student satisfaction rate. Without the opportunities provided by student leaders, the satisfaction rate would plummet.

J.J. O’Toole-Curran agrees with Perez. She said the work student leaders provide is essential to the success of the university as a whole.

“At the end of the day, the campus needs student leaders to inspire the rest of the students,” O’Toole-Curran said.

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Alek Joyce at the Man to Man: Masculinity Symposium, which took place on Saturday, Sept. 28. The symposium discussed problems and stereotypes facing men in today’s society. Many involved students attended the lecture.

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