UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State World Campus students who want to help raise money for THON now have an official chapter to participate in the Penn State event. LGBTQ+ students also have an organization to come together, and students interested in software development now have an organization in which they can get together with like-minded students.

These are among the six groups that Penn State World Campus students established in the fall 2020 semester, expanding opportunities to connect and build a sense of community. 

The six groups have increased the number of Penn State World Campus student-run clubs and organizations to 17. The groups all received their approvals through the Penn State World Campus Student Affairs office.

Penn State World Campus for THON is the official organization for student support of the Four Diamonds Fund, which raises money for families affected by pediatric cancer. THON will be a virtual event in 2021. 

Pride World Campus is a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to speak openly about themselves and related events. The Software Development Organization is for students who have an interest in software engineering, computer science, and computer engineering.

The other groups are the International City/County Management Association, which is for professional local government leaders building sustainable communities; the Video Games Club, which provides a space for students to play games competitively and cooperatively; and Zeta Mu Phi, a service sorority exclusively for Penn State World Campus students.

Ashley Adams, the senior director of Penn State World Campus Student Affairs, said she is excited to see the number of clubs and organizations grow. She said it shows students’ desire to connect with the University. 

“Online students regularly tell us they want to be included and belong,” Adams said. “Their interest in developing identity-based and interest organizations, to name a few, are a sign of that. It's exciting to see them leveraging their interest to connect with one another through recognized student organizations.”

The new clubs have elected officers, are holding meetings, and are carrying out activities.

Taren Lewis is the founder and president of the Software Development Organization. He said he created the organization to form a community for students to work together to develop their software skills.

“I believe that as students, it is important to push ourselves above and beyond the expectations of our classes,” Lewis said. “We have the opportunity when we are in school to really shine and develop personally and professionally. It is important to take advantage of that time to network, collaborate, and work on projects together, which help solidify our understanding of our class materials.”

Lewis said the organization has 30 members and held its first event in November, when the group held a discussion with the vice president of cloud security at U.S. Bank. The group is working on developing a club website, too.

Jona Hall, the president of the service sorority Zeta Mu Phi, established the organization because there were no options for World Campus students to participate in Greek life. Now, the group has 25 members, and they use WhatsApp for their communications.

The fall semester was busy with a variety of activities, as members fulfilled acts of kindness in their communities in September, and in November, they held a fundraiser for Thorn, an organization that fights against child trafficking and abuse.

“I wanted to close that gap and give everybody a fair chance to be involved around their busy schedules,” Hall said. “Some of our activities are a group effort, and some they fulfill individually.”

Julie Fitzgerald, the co-curricular programs coordinator for Penn State World Campus Student Affairs, said some of the students who formed the clubs got the idea from attending leadership conferences available to students. The organizations are good way for students to enhance their learning experiences by connecting with others outside of their courses and form networks that can benefit them even after they graduate, she said.

“Students are looking for ways to connect with other like-minded students, to develop their leadership capabilities, develop themselves professionally, and to round out their experience,” Fitzgerald said. “It can be a support network in some ways, helping them progress through their educational journey.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for students to learn more about the available clubs and organizations or learn how to create a new one.

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