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.

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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.


 

A Year Like No Other

This time last year, I was being admitted to ORMC and being prepped for surgery for an “abscess.” Twenty-one days later, most of which I had spent barely conscious at ORMC and then Emory Midtown, I had been diagnosed with Sweet’s Syndrome. It was yet another condition I, my family, and most of my medical team had never heard of. Thankfully, we were at a hospital where someone had seen it before (which is a huge feat given only a few hundred cases have ever been documented). Even after I made it home, I faced the worst depression I’ve ever endured, being unable to walk or care for myself, and continuing pain. Eventually I graduated from the wheelchair to a cane. I was able to drive again. And now I’m able to walk unassisted again.
 
Me with my wife and parents following dinner on the one year anniversary of my hospitalization leading to a diagnosis of Sweet’s Syndrome.
It has been an incredibly long year, but I am grateful for how it has brought me together with my caregivers (especially Nikki). I am grateful for caring nurses that went to extraordinary lengths (including learning the Charleston) to assist in my recovery. I never want to go through it again. But I am glad for the things I learned through the process.
 
Tonight, I went to dinner with Nikki, Mom, and Dad. We had fun. I drove us there. I walked in by myself. I ate something other than grits (which was basically the only thing I ate from August through October). And I am humbled by how blessed I am.

Oh, what a weekend…

To say that this past weekend was involved would be an understatement. Really, it was the entire week. It started, for me at least, on Tuesday with the Relay for Life Survivor Dinner. Wednesday, I started the Survive and Thrive program at Georgia College. Then on Friday, things really got crazy.

The day started with the Georgia College Celebration of Excellence. I hadn’t been on campus much since having to give up my job, so it was great to be able to see old friends and coworkers. But the highlight of the ceremony was getting to see my wife receive the inaugural Eve Puckett Community Service Award. Nikki worked hard to earn that honor, and it was well deserved. She’s worked with student groups, Relay for Life as a team captain, event leadership, and finally event lead, not to mention her tireless devotion to her students. But, that was just the beginning of the day.

Friday night was Relay. As soon as she smiled for the pictures following the award, Nikki had headed straight to the event site. She worked all day setting things up and making sure things went perfectly. She worked her heart out for it, and it was perfect. It was an amazing night, and she did wonderfully. It was well into Saturday morning when everything wrapped up and we made it home, but mixed with the exhaustion was a great sense of satisfaction. WordPress isn’t letting me upload photos for some reason, but I have all them posted in a Facebook album.

I am incredibly proud of Nikki. In the past year, she’s become a supervisor at work, was selected as the Relay event lead, received the award, and has been a great caretaker. She has accomplished a lot, and I look forward to what the upcoming year will bring.

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