Collegiate Recruiting: Finding the Next Generation

I had submitted this to QST for review, but apparently SueAnne Griffith’s piece (August 2017) was already in the pipeline ahead of mine. Granted, that assumption also requires that my submission was worthy of publication, but… I’m going to embrace the hubris that it was. 🙂

So, to keep it from going to waste, I am posting it here for your consideration.


Collegiate Recruiting:
Finding the Next Generation

Through the years, I have been involved with many aspects of student organizations, both as member, officer, and now advisor looking to revitalize the club at my alma mater.  Because of this, I have experienced many different styles of recruiting with varying levels of effectiveness. Now, I want to share my experiences in hopes of aiding the growth of other clubs as well.

Becoming known

Every campus has a special place where students gather. For my campus (Go Bobcats!), it was by “the fountain.” For others it may be the quad, student center, or tailgates. But the simple fact is, most institutions will not be willing to allocate a permanent space, and definitely not funding, to a group with only a few members. So recruitment must become a priority.

The Collegiate Amateur Radio Forum at Orlando Hamcation provided some great ideas, but more can be done. Here are some tried and true methods that have been proven effective time and again.

Effective Tabeling

Information tables are a college tradition, but most fall short of perfection. There are elements that will make your effort standout from the crowd. First, it needs to be catchy. Have a well designed banner so people know who you are – they can readily be found online for less than $50.  Have plenty of brochures and handouts as a takeaway item. Many are available from the ARRL, but it is also quite easy to adopt them to your campus.

Approach your local radio club for start-up assistance. See if they can provide go-kits for a demonstration on the table. A portable antenna will certainly be an eyecatcher among other groups who are tabling as well. They may even be willing to provide some funding for handouts and giveaways, which leads to the number one method of getting a college student’s attention: freebies!

Students love free food. It could be pizza, candy, or bags of chips or crackers. The one caveat to this, especially if you are in the south, is to avoid chocolate. It can quickly make a mess if left in sunlight or high temperatures. You can also consider koozies, frisbees, or flash drives (pre-loaded with some club fliers and information, of course).

Have volunteers rotate between talking on the radio and talking to passers by. Some should be in front of the table so it appears friendly and engaging. Be prepared to talk to students in all of the programs offered by the institution, not just STEM. Criminal justice and government majors will likely be attracted to the emergency communication and public service aspects. Journalism, marketing, and communication students will likely be interested in how it ties into the technology used for broadcasting. And yes, STEM students will be interested in the technology and maker aspects.

Keep in mind diversity at your table. Volunteers from your local club are great, but they are just a start. Do your best to also have college age volunteers. Get the YLs involved. If someone’s grandchild is popular in Greek Life or athletics, offer him a lunch to spend an hour with you.

Follow-Up

Outreach is only the first step. You can have a table with dozens of people surrounding it the entire time period, and it still be a failure. Don’t just give out cards, have people sign-up for an email list. You could even include a drawing for a gift card to a local restaurant or the campus bookstore. Then use that information.

Send out an email to everyone who stopped by thanking them for their time and inviting them to follow your club on social media.  Let them know about upcoming events and talks, or license classes. Remember, just because they may not be interested in getting licensed right now, they still may show up for discussions specific to their interest.

Conclusion

Overall, remember to make it fun. College students have enough serious topics to face on a day to day basis. Set up the demonstrations like a mini-Field Day or special event. This is the generation of the smartphone, so instant communication will not impress them. Show them how amateur radio is different, fun, and experiential. It truly is a hobby with something for everyone. It’s just a matter of helping students find something that sparks their interest.

—————–

Daniel R. Simpson, K4DRS was first licensed at 11 years old and was active in amateur radio and other student groups in college and graduate school. He can be reached at P.O. Box 1882, Milledgeville, Georgia 31059 or at k4drs@arrl.net.


 

GMC All Hail!

Georgia Military College has seemingly always been part of my life. Although I was home schooled, I spent most of my teenage years going to their prep football games. My boss’ son was the quarterback, so I had a good excuse to be there. As time moved on, I graduated high school and spent a year at the local vocational school. Finally, once summer day when it was 128 degrees in the electrical lab, I decided that I really didn’t want to be an electrician. I talked it over with my parents, and I started getting everything together for my admission to GMC.

GMC is a large institution, but the Milledgeville campus at that time had more prep school students than college students. But still, coming from a program where I was one of 4 to being in 25 person classes, it was quite a culture shock. In an effort to fit in, I went to the Student Activities office and asked about starting up a College Republican chapter and joining SGA. Well, I had to have at least 5 people to start the CR chapter, but I could join SGA just by coming to the next meeting, so that’s what I did.

In what I still find as an extremely weird twist of fate, that was the week the 48th Brigade of the Georgia National Guard received deployment orders, taking quite a few GMC cadets, and all but one of the SGA officers, with them. So, I quickly went from trying to see what SGA was about, to being vice-president. Through that organization I formed many friendships I continue to enjoy through this day. I learned to speak in public without having a panic attack (kind of vital for me these days…). I went to my first conference, and while I was learning in the classroom, I learned just as much in the Student Activities office. I continued my involvement, and the next year was elected president.

As time moved forward, like it always does, I won a few awards, went to a few more conferences and retreats, and generally had the time of my life. I knew I would soon graduate, but that didn’t mean I was in any way looking forward to it. But graduate I did, moving on to my first congressional campaign over the summer, and starting at Georgia College as a junior political science major that fall.

Once again, time marched forward. Four years later, with my political science degree and a recently finished Master of Public Administration in hand, I met a friend for lunch at Amici’s. She wondered why I was so dressed up, so I told her that I had just interviewed to be part-time faculty at GMC until I found a full time job. Well, I got the position. And I was now a “peer” to all of the faculty who had taught and mentored me through the years. A few months later, I walked in faculty as my childhood best friend walked across the stage in his Marine blues to receive his degree from all the Army brass. I continued teaching once I got my full time job. And on into my second full time job. But things still change.

Due to my health issues, I have let my department chair know that I will not be returning for spring quarter. For the first time since fall of 2010, I will not be a faculty member at Georgia Military College. It is still a bit strange to comprehend, but GMC will always be a part of my life. I grew up there. I experienced my first take of leadership there.  It was my first professional job. And most importantly, I had my first date with my wife there.

I’m only going to be three blocks away, so I’m sure I will still be visiting often. And I hope that my former students continue to stay in touch as well.

Opera cum Fidelitate

In Memory of Eve

I know it is strange to be wearing my SGA pin after having been out of the organization seven years. Even SGA has gone though several logo changes since then. But, this pin was given to me during the retreat where I first met Eve Puckett. So, I am wearing it today instead of my alumni pin, or my University Senate pin, in her honor and memory.

The outpouring of memories from everyone who loved Eve has been overwhelming. My post from Tuesday has been viewed by nearly 13,000 people from all 50 states and over 40 countries. Just to put that into perspective, the next most popular post of all time on this site has had 36 views. So, it is by no means my writing ability.

The woman we remember today has impacted countless lives. Her memorial service is being held in the largest auditorium in any of the surrounding counties. And I fully expect the place to be packed.

A Giant of Georgia College

I don’t know that there is ever a good time to wake up with your wife handing you a phone. I know it is generally best to have some caffeine in my system before I try to talk to anyone. With the “It’s an emergency” added in, the adrenaline quickly took the place of the caffeine and I woke up very quickly. As is always the case with that introduction, the news was not good. My colleague and “office neighbor” Eve Puckett had suffered a brain aneurysm.

I first met Eve nine years ago when I was a somewhat terrified transfer student who was trying to get involved in student government at Georgia College just as I had been at GMC. At the time, she was one of the advisors for the organization, and I quickly learned one of her rather phenomenal abilities. She can remember names like they are carved in stone. I have never seen anyone else who even comes close. I’ve mentioned people who worked on campus 20 years ago and she instantly knew to whom I was referring. As someone who has always struggled to remember names, it has always been a phenomenal ability to me.

She was a one-person institutional memory repository. Just in the time I have known her, she has worked for Human Resources, Disability Services, and University Housing, not to mention serving on Staff Council and University Senate and working with the Student Government Association and GIVE Center. She had also taught in several different departments, and bragged about having worked in sixteen offices during her tenure with the institution (although granted on a per year basis, I was catching up with her).

As we moved through the weekend, there has been an outpouring of support on social media. Inspired by Larry’s post, Georgia College’s network has turned into a sea of orange.

Eve Puckett’s favorite color is Orange. Please consider replacing your profile picture in her support as she fights for her life!

Posted by Larry Christenson on Sunday, October 11, 2015

Eve passed away this morning. Ever the fighter, she kept going even after, in accordance with her wishes, life support had been disconnected. My prayers and thoughts are with her family. She may have been short of stature, but Eve Puckett was a giant of the Bobcat Nation. You did NOT try to keep up with her walking. You did not remember names any better than she did. There was no point in trying to out serve her. I can only hope that when my lifetime is complete, I will have made such a positive impact on even a fraction of the number of people she has.