Michigan State University is home to over 900 student organizations, ranging from academic groups to Greek life to personal support groups.
For all students, but especially students of color joining a predominantly white institution, finding student organizations that fit social, academic and cultural backgrounds can be important in feeling at home at the 8 square-mile campus.
Indian Students Organization, or ISO, president Lavaanya Jain said finding a student of color-led organization helped her adjust to being away from home for the first time.
"The first time out of my home felt overwhelming," Jain said via email. "ISO was one of the closest things to home on campus. It helped me get through my days of homesickness and made me interact with some good people.”
Jain said she liked how the organization seemed to accommodate students, which led her to want to help other students settle in as they got their starts at MSU.
She also said ISO allowed her to have a spot on MSU's huge campus, which will be home to almost 50,000 students this academic year.
Of those students, roughly one-fourth identify as a student of color. Only 9.1% of students are international students.
Despite the smaller number of students of color on campus, Jain said all students should join student groups that align with their racial or ethnic backgrounds.
"It allows them to settle in fast and gives them comfort," Jain said. "But with that being said, I also encourage people to be a part of organizations that do not match their racial or ethnic background because that will allow them to learn something new about other cultures and traditions. It is vital to have a group similar to you and know and understand new cultures."
Joining these students of color-led organizations can further improve an understanding of diversity and inclusion of MSU's campus while giving space for these students to feel at home at their university.
"Every organization is different here at MSU, and it represents the emotions of every individual," Jain said. "Expressing yourself and your culture on such a large platform is a proud moment for every organization or student. Being able to speak on behalf of your community makes much difference.”
Jain said it’s important for all student organizations to bring people together.
“Respecting one another and their beliefs remains the most important thing,” Jain said. “I would love to create an environment that feels like home for the Indian students and a new opportunity to explore for every other individual on campus."
Some student of color-led organizations that students can join this fall are:
For a full list of student organizations, visit the Involve@State website.
This article is a part of our Welcome Week print issue. The full issue can be viewed here.
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