Why I participate in extra-curricular activities with students

Diana Skrzydlo explains how she benefits from joining student organizations.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like to be a student. I’m not talking about late night assignments, last minute study sessions, and cramped living spaces; I’m talking about forming communities of common interest, developing lifelong friendships, and exploring your passions.

In my 12 years as a faculty member, I have been involved in FASS (the Faculty, Alumni, Staff, and Students theatre company), the Chamber and University choirs, and the AcaBellas. They’re not just student groups; they’re university community groups—most clubs are open to any UW community members, including faculty. I’ve been behind the scenes and I’ve performed on stage, and through it all, it has been a delight to share the experience with a variety of other members of the campus community.

The pursuit of a shared passion will build real empathy, and empathy for your students will make you a better educator.

Here are some of the benefits of participating in student organizations:

1. You get to know students outside of the classroom.

It’s much easier to get to know someone when you aren’t grading their work. In an environment without the inherent power imbalance of the classroom, you can truly get to know one another as people, and they are amazing people!.

2. They get to see you (and hence other faculty) as human.

Standing at the front of the classroom, being the voice of authority, it’s easy for students to forget that you’re a person too, with your own interests outside of your subject. Collaborating on a creative endeavour inspires a deeper understanding of one another.

Diana with the cast of the Fall 2019 FASS show.

3. They’ll impress and inspire you.

The thing that’s struck me the most is how hard-working and dedicated all the students I interact with are. They are juggling five classes, co-op interviews, supporting friends through new experiences and challenges in their lives, and still find the time to commit to volunteer activities. You might be astounded by the creativity and passion that students bring.

4. You get different perspectives on university policy and practice.

It is fascinating to observe how different groups can perceive things differently. Seeing how students interact with their course environment or email one another can change the way you approach communication with your class. Having an opportunity to gain insight into how students view things happening at the University can be eye opening.

5. You see and empathize with the challenges students are facing.

Like many faculty members, today’s students struggle with mental health. In some ways we’re at very different stages of our life, but we still have a lot to learn from one another outside of academics. The pursuit of a shared passion will build real empathy, and empathy for your students will make you a better educator.

If performing on stage isn’t your thing, that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. Whatever hobby you have, I can almost guarantee there is a student club for it, from sports to crafts to cultural organizations. So go and see what’s out there. You just might make connections that can help expand your view of the University community we’re all a part of together. And you can’t beat the location!

Diana Skrzydlo is director of the Master of Actuarial Science (MActSc) program and a continuing lecturer in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science.

One thought on “Why I participate in extra-curricular activities with students

  1. I wonder if this is an argument for more inter-generational community activities more broadly. I spend most of my Saturdays with Food Not Bombs, a group which has many student volunteers. Through FNB I have experienced some of the benefits Diana describes.

    But I’d be wary of joining a student club unless it was one (like many of the ones Diana describes) that explicitly seeks to bring together faculty and students. (I loved FASS most recent show by the way). It seems intrusive to me. University already blurs so many lines between public and private spaces. Some student clubs might be (just offering a suggestion) a place for students to retreat from the demands of class. Faculty presence might be an unhelpful reminder of those demands.


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