In the past 10 years, the number of student clubs at Century College has grown from six to 39.
Visit the bustling new student center on the first floor of Century’s West Campus, and you will observe that more and more students are becoming engaged in campus life.
“Student clubs are all about leadership opportunities,” said Xiong Lor, president of the Century College Student Senate. “They are also about keeping students engaged in college so that they finish what they start.”
Lor, 26, didn’t intend to become active in a student club when he first enrolled in Century in spring 2009. But he randomly decided to attend an Asian Student Association meeting and started to get involved. Soon he was nominated and elected president of the club.
Last year, under Lor’s leadership, and with the strong support of his leadership team, ASA won the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ Outstanding Student Club Diversity Award.
“ASA’s mission this year is to be more actively engaged with the other clubs and build stronger bonds between clubs,” said Lor. “Because it is the biggest club, members needed to reach out to other people. If you get the right people together and have a plan, you can succeed in whatever you want to do.”
Lor, who lives with his brothers in St. Paul, said after he graduated from high school, he took a lucrative factory job that paid his bills, but gave him little satisfaction. Co-workers and others urged him to go to college to find work that was closer to his heart’s desire. After taking some business courses, Lor discovered the Visual Communication Technology program at Century. He is currently aiming for a career in filmmaking and plans to attend a four-year college after graduating from Century.
Between his school work and his student club activities, Lor said he feels as though he lives at Century. “I’m sometimes here from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he said. “With a full-time class schedule, plus homework, projects, meetings and conferences, it just doesn’t stop. Really, it’s way more than I expected. But I have no regrets. You have to push yourself to be successful.”
Lor said student club involvement helps students learn to work on teams – an important skill when they leave college and work in the real world.
Jennifer Rassett, Associate Director of Student Life and Leadership Development at Century, said she has seen students who were active in clubs go on to be very successful at four-year colleges and in the workplace.
“Club activities enhance what goes on in the classroom,” said Rassett. “There are few things that can teach you as much as being a leader of your peers. You learn how to get along with people, manage conflict, manage time, conduct a meeting and put on an event. These are life-applicable skills that give you an advantage in the job market.”
Century’s student clubs fall into three groups: cultural clubs such as the Asian Student Association, Arabic Club and Spanish Club; academic clubs such as the Century College Information Technology Association, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Orthotics and Prosthetics Student Association, and social clubs such as the Table Tennis Club and the Free-Style Dance Club.
A recent grant is allowing Century to construct a “ropes course” for leadership and team-building activities.
“We are encouraging students to stretch themselves, challenge themselves and find their place at Century and in the world,” said Rassett. “We encourage students to be creative and take some calculated risks.”
Rassett said the college’s new student center has given student life at Century a big leap forward. “We now have places for students to congregate, meet people and conduct meetings,” said Rassett. “The minute the center opened, I could see the difference.”
As one measurement of the heightened student activity, last year the college sold 400 discounted State Fair tickets in The Connection, the lower-level space that was used as a student center of sorts. This year, with the new student center, the college sold 1,200 State Fair tickets from its highly-visible ticket booth. Another measure – one day during Welcome Week, students consumed 110 pizzas – the biggest pizza order a local restaurant has ever processed.
“Our goal is to provide opportunities for students to find their niche on campus,” said Rassett. “When they do, good things happen.”