Being Really Involved… Versus Focusing on One Activity
By Myrel Iturrey And Erin Landau, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
In high school, most Dartmouth students participated in pretty much every activity possible, from surf club to the debate team to underwater basket weaving — anything that we thought would help us get into college. This all begs the question of whether or not we should continue on this do-it-all trajectory in college.
Some of us believe it is necessary to explore all the options with which this institution provides us. When you commit yourself to one activity, it is easy to remain connected to one group of people and never reach outside of your limits or explore the diverse opportunities this place has to offer.
Take Duncan Hall ’13, who is a moderator for the Greek Leadership Council, a participant in Men’s Forum and a member of the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault. He said he became involved in these activities because he wanted to work with administrators to actually make lasting changes for the College.
“I saw what difference I could make even as a member of my fraternity, and I wanted to get some important changes going within the Greek system,” Hall said. “I saw that the Greek system could be a very powerful catalyst for change. For me, it’s about trying to make everyone a little more accountable and responsible for their actions because that’s what the real world is like.”
Hall said he felt like he wouldn’t be using his time here correctly if he weren’t involved in a lot of different organizations. Hall said he has been able to apply a lot of what he has learned from SPSCA to make real changes with his role in GLC.
Christine Kannoff ’15, who participates in club soccer and is a member of the Subtleties as well as the Outdoor Leadership Experience, said she participates in these because of her love of the arts and athletics.
“I love the two things I do so much — I couldn’t imagine not doing one or the other,” Kannoff said. “It’s easy to want to manage something when you really love what you’re doing.”
Kannoff said she also appreciates how her organizations open her up to upperclassmen and different groups of people. She added that the structure these activities provide her have also helped her with time management.
Chris O’Connell ’13 is a student director at the Tucker Foundation, an intern at the admissions office, participates in the Diversity Peer Program and was on the Dartmouth Outing Club directorate of 2012.
“In a very practical sense, the organizations I am a part of have helped me flesh out what I’m interested in after Dartmouth,” O’Connell said. “Some of this work around the admissions office made me realize I’m interested in higher education, which was a good realization to have.”
He said another benefit stems from being a part of multiple different sub-communities instead of just the greater Dartmouth community. He said he enjoys feeling connected to and invested in a lot of different pockets of the College.
“There’s lots of paths to take at Dartmouth and with so many options trying out a few can often be a better outcome than just trying one, because the combination can make more validating and enriching experience,” O’Connell said.
He added that he that believes there is an incredible benefit to having multiple involvements outside the classroom, though at some points of his Dartmouth career he has spread himself too thinly across these various activities. O’Connell said he loves finding parallels between the groups he is involved in and enjoys the interdisciplinary aspects of groups like DOC trips and the DPP.
“The reason I’m committed to so many different things is because I’m interested in various things and they’ve formed my Dartmouth identity in different ways,” Alice Liou ’13, who is a Tucker student leader, the student director of Alternative Spring Break trips and the president of the Dartmouth Chinese Culture Club.
“Dartmouth for me is a lot about the people that you meet,” Liou said. “Being in all these groups has given me different people to tap into and have access to. Being involved really gives you a true, cohesive experience here.”
Liou described her activities and the people she has met through them as similar to “the party sampler — you get a little bit of everything, because sometimes you do want the mozzarella sticks and the buffalo wings.”
And then there is the argument for focusing all your energy on a single activity. Imagine a baker trying to complete four cakes at the same time. Instead of each cake exemplifying a mastery of the craft, they would each turn out simply mediocre. Had the baker concentrated his or her inspiration and perspiration to one, exquisite dessert, he or she would have had a product of which to be truly proud.
The same principle can be applied to extracurricular activities. It can be both personally rewarding as well as advantageous to the community at large if we, as students, choose to devote ourselves to one or two key activities on campus to which we are most passionate about. The less we add to our agendas, the more we are able to appropriate humanity’s most scarce resources — time and energy — to each of our tasks. By specializing rather than generalizing, we ensure that we will strive and excel.
With the growing bureaucracy and formalities associated with student organizations and the ever-increasing hours one must allot to practice in order to have a fighting chance on the field, there is hardly a place for a Renaissance man on a modern-day college campus. There is simply too much to do and too much to know. Effectuating change in any given activity, whether pushing for new legislation or being the highest-scoring player on the team, takes more than just a couple hours a week.
This line of thinking resonates with Dartmouth women’s lacrosse player Jessica Venturino ’15, who knows her team depends on her to stay in peak physical condition.
“If I had to dedicate my time to other activities, I probably wouldn’t be the athlete I am today,” Venturino said. “Sports are a lot like the real world in the sense that they’re about being the best. Mediocrity doesn’t fly.”
As students dedicate more of their time to a single activity, they foster more meaningful relationships with the other people involved. Rather than making shallow and often ephemeral relationships, they develop a deeper understanding of others’ interests, goals, passions, strengths and weaknesses. Joon Baak ’15, a “Big Brother” for the “Big Brother Big Sister” program at Dartmouth, attests to this fact.
“I could easily say that my relationship with my little sib could only exist because I devoted four to five hours a week to see him,” Baak said. “To have seen him less would have undermined the experience and made the time together far less meaningful.”
So what’s it going to be? Party sampler or single entree? That’s for you to decide.