The case for joining

Robert Valentine Senior lecturer of advertising


Column by Robert Valentine, senior lecturer of advertising

On my first day on campus as a genuine, fully-fledged freshman at a proud state university, I felt I was part of the institution itself.

That’s because I belonged to a group.

I could have felt like a member of my dormitory – a building dating back to the 1800s with bad lighting, one closet for three men and no air conditioning – but I wasn’t sure which of my roommates was “Rich” and which was “Glen.” We didn’t have the friendly luxury of residential colleges.

I might have felt like a member of the freshman class, but there were about 2,500 of us from many different places. I knew of only two other people from my hometown.

You would think I would have been pretty lonely.

But I was a member of the debate team. We were the prize nerds of the campus, I’m sure, but we knew who we were. We had a proud tradition to uphold, since the school had won three national championships dating back to 1952 (which was ancient history even when I got to campus).

We were family, with our own inside jokes non-debaters couldn’t understand. We picked fights (arguments after dinner in the cafeteria, actually) with seniors and law students and we won. We were rhetorical bullies and proud of it.

The important thing is this: we belonged. When things got tough, we could talk it over with the debate coach, who was among the wisest people on the planet (fact, not opinion). We could discuss with juniors and seniors the wisdom of taking anthropology instead of chemistry to satisfy university studies requirements.

There were girls on the team, too, and they became like sisters to us. They explained things about women and social rules that a teenage fellow of that era would have no other way of knowing. Life as a nerd was pretty good.

Later on would come things like fraternities, student government, honor societies, clubs and political groups, etc., etc., etc. Those were really helpful, too. Belonging, achieving and working with others provides security and challenges. You grow.

I was reminded of all that ancient business by a human resources director in Chicago. Last July, we were visiting HR heads and other supervisors at advertising and public relations agencies where Murray State students were on summer internships.

The HR director, who is in charge of hiring new employees – including summer interns – told us that some of big things she looks for on those skimpy resumés are memberships and involvement while at school.

“We’re looking for signs that this person can work with others,” she said, “that they have been involved with causes or interests; that they can lead and follow.”

You have that chance, right now. Groups all over campus are crying out for your participation. From the student government in the Curris Center to The Murray State News in Wilson Hall, organizations that can help you build a network of friends are looking for people to replace those who graduated. They are seeking those who can bring a new perspective to what they do.

Participation will be rewarding to you as an individual, but it may also be a key to getting hired for summer work or for your first job after college. You can’t decide to take part in these groups and activities after you graduate – that’s too late. It is an opportunity which, once ignored, won’t come again.

You are not alone and, at Murray State, you already know that. But there are organizations on every hand to help you learn, grow, have fun and develop the friendships that will last a lifetime. You can never tell, and you will never know until you step up and join.

Ever consider the debate team? Your residential college has one, and they are waiting for you to speak your mind. The floor is yours.