Current Drexel Students Attest to the Importance of Getting Involved
The first few days of college can feel a bit like the first few days of kindergarten, when you can strike up a friendship with someone just by being in the same class. But how can you go deeper and make the most of college with long-lasting friendships? Since 2020, getting out of the house can feel like a huge ordeal, but it doesn’t have to be. Drexel University has plenty of ways to get involved, from social groups to academic networks and more in between. Several current students shared how they got involved in their extracurriculars and how it’s affected their college careers so far.
Carlie Relyea, a biological sciences major in the College of Arts and Sciences, got involved in Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) during the fall of her first year after seeing a flyer for it. She’d participated in student government in high school and was drawn to what might be a familiar world in a new place, so she joined as a freshman representative. She was re-elected in her sophomore year and joined the Student Organization Committee (SOC), and now serves as the USGA vice president.
“I wanted to get involved to make Drexel a better place to improve the experience for myself and other students,” Relyea said. “Getting involved in SOC was impactful on me. Student organizations are everything I did for two years.”
SOC deals in the recognition of every student organization on campus, so Relyea worked closely with a lot of the 300 organizations. She met students she wouldn’t have otherwise and heard what they’re passionate about. She usually interacted with students in her biology-related academic circles, but through USGA and SOC, she met computer science majors, worked with cultural organizations and learned about different social groups.
“Being involved in general has expanded my circles so much and the three boards I’m a part of. I don’t even know what my college experience would be without any of them,” Relyea said. “What you put into it is what you get out. If you want to go and make friends, if you go and show up and you’re excited about events, you’re going to make friends and meet people who have the same interest or goal as you.”
Relyea encourages incoming students to go out and test the water in as many organizations as catch their eye. The involvement fair is a huge help in trying out what you might like.
“It can’t hurt,” Relyea said. “If you decide something’s not for you, then it’s not for you. It’s just about finding what you need in your college experience, which is why I have these three orgs. USGA is about leadership development and making change on campus. Then I felt I needed something more academic-focused, so I joined PhiDE, and then when things started to open up again at Drexel [during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic], I was like, ‘OK, I feel like I’m missing some fun and a social support system, so I joined Delta Gamma.”
Without the Drexel Veterans Association (DVA), Sammy Gilligan (class of 2023) wouldn’t have met one of his best friends, Drexel alumnus Andy Stoffer. After serving in the Marine Corps and coming to Drexel, Gilligan threw himself into his new community. There was plenty of good stuff to be found.
“A major reason I joined was because when I got out of the Marine Corps, it’s very difficult to build relationships with people because you’re so used to a different lifestyle than the civilian life and the higher education life,” Gilligan said. “I think joining the DVA made school a lot easier, and I always had people I related with.”
Gilligan is the treasurer of the DVA and is also part of a networking program for nursing students like himself. When he was deciding on a university, he picked Drexel because it was a new place and new city for him. Once he joined a few groups containing people with similar interests and experiences, he made fast friends.
Finding people with common backgrounds like those in the DVA helped Gilligan find his footing, and he encourages new students to do the same — and to try new things out. There were a couple groups he tried out at the beginning of his time at Drexel that he didn’t want to stick with. He communicated that to them and moved on. In one case, the next thing he moved on to was the Drexel Veteran Association.
“Joining a group will open so many opportunities for you. If you don’t join a group, you’ll never know what the potential opportunities were. Worst case scenario, you spent an afternoon going to something you’re not crazy about,” Gilligan said.
If you’re looking for low-commitment ways to get out of the residence hall and into the campus community, Campus Activity Board (CAB) events are the way to go. Though you can become a formal member of CAB — which current president Morgan Price, a student in the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ BS/MS Nutrition Bridge Program, advocates for — the low-stress smorgasbord of events and get-togethers is a great option to bring new students out of their shells.
“I think CAB was a great way for me to bond with people as a freshman,” Price said. “I made a lot of friends and CAB was our way of finding social activities … A lot of our events are free of charge or low charge, so you can just come hang out. You can go to one event, or every single event.”
CAB is an entirely student-run event programming organization that hosts events from Quizzo to cultural events to an annual Block Party to museum trips to late-night skating. Their biggest event every year is Dragonfly, a huge concert during the fall quarter. Price said CAB is a great way to get involved and get to know people, because there are themed nights where you can find people with similar interests.
“For somebody who just attends CAB events, there’s no commitment to it,” Price said. “I think it’s a great way to get involved in a lot of things. I think coming from a virtual environment and for freshmen coming into completely new surroundings, they don't want to spread themselves too thin. I think that's something that we're all really aware of, but with CAB, you can decide that day.”
Of course, you can also go deeper with CAB and during their open recruitment, join one of the six committees that keep it running. Price said she’s made a lot of close friends by going that route. She’s a nutrition major, so having an outlet like CAB, where she can tap into creative skills like event planning or marketing, has been huge.
“There’s so much camaraderie being part of an event together like that,” Price said.
Luckily for incoming students, there are plenty of ways to get involved. The Involvement Fair will be from 4–6 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Lancaster Walk, where dozens of official Drexel student organizations will have tables to explain what they’re all about. Sign up on DragonLink.
Speaking of DragonLink, that’s another great place to start. Each officially recognized campus organization, of which there are over 200, has contact information on the site so you can figure out when the next meetup is.
Of course, CAB is another great way to get involved, meet people and get to know Drexel and Philly. Visit their website and follow them on social to keep up with events.
If you’d like to join a sorority or fraternity, there are multiple opportunities to get involved, starting with formal recruitment in the fall for the Interfraternity Council, Multicultural Greek Council and Panhellenic Council. Email GreekLife@Drexel.edu for information.
And no matter what you do, try to tap into that kindergarten self — everyone’s in the same new, unfamiliar boat.