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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Enhancing Education

Student Clubs: Much More Than A Lot of Fun

By: Melisa Virnig, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Intern

Attending a university in a small, college town like Pullman, WA, where you can get anywhere in less than 10 minutes, gives WSU students a unique opportunity for involvement.

The Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture recognizes the advantages of a small, close-knit community and strives to provide an ‘Experience Enhanced Education’ for its students.

“WSU is a residential campus in a rural environment,” said Robert Olsen, associate dean of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. “Students don’t live very far from each other, and it’s easier to do things outside of the classroom. This makes WSU unique because it is a 24/7 learning environment.”

To enhance the student’s academic experience outside of class, the college provides a number of activities, including a student studying/tutoring center, a living-learning community where a number of events are held, undergraduate research opportunities, an entrepreneurship program, and internships.

Clubs offered within the college have a huge impact on the enhanced education and experience of students. While the idea of a club suggests students hanging out together and just having fun, WSU’s student clubs are much more than that.

“In clubs, students get the chance to learn because they want to learn on their own,” Olsen said. “The students can learn in a different way than they would in a classroom.”

The clubs enhance the education students receive in their classes and help them understand the material.

“It creates a lot of solidifying experiences,” he said. “If you learn in the classroom and have the opportunity to practice it in a different way, you’ll learn it a lot better.”

Clubs also allow students to gain experience independently before entering their careers.

“Students have a chance to manage projects from start to finish on their own before they leave to go to industry,” Olsen said.

Funding is incredibly important for clubs, said Olsen, allowing them to participate in learning opportunities such as competitions. Funding also provides the critical support for materials and equipment for projects.

Most funding comes from income from WSU’s annual career fair. Companies pay to participate in the career fair, and the funds go directly into student club support. The college has started to see more private funding from individual donors. Clubs also pursue their own fundraising.

Student clubs and many of the other student involvement opportunities at WSU have a huge impact and make the difference for student success, said Olsen. He would like to grow those opportunities, especially for lower-division students.

While some might think that engineering clubs and undergraduate research experiences are just activities done in the students’ “spare time,” they are much more than that. They are in integral part of a complete engineering education.

“It might seem like student clubs or a research experience for an undergraduate are an ‘extra’ in our students’ education,” he said. “No, these things are our education.”

Robert Olsen

“It might seem like student clubs or a research experience for an undergraduate are an ‘extra’ in our students’ education.No, these things are our education.” —Robert Olsen