TUN sits down with Will Sauerland, president of the Hydroponics Club at the University of Pittsburgh, to discuss the benefits of joining a club in college.
TUN: Will, thanks so much for joining us!
Will: Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.
Before we get into the reasons why, or potentially why not, students should join a club in college, can you explain what the Hydroponics Club at Pitt is all about?
We essentially design, build and test all of our own hydroponic systems, and then we try to take what we learned — what we know — about hydroponics and sustainable growing in general and convey that to the community that we work in, whether that’s going into different elementary schools and doing a day with a science class and showing them all sorts of stuff or doing an after-school program.
So, it’s learning on our own and then conveying what we learn to the general community.
Going into college, did you know you were going to join a club, or was it something that naturally fell in place? Can you take us back to your freshman year and walk us through your process and your mindset?
I think every school is kind of the same. They all have a student activities fair where all the clubs can have a little booth and people can walk up and talk to the members of the (club) to just see what they’re about.
We’re almost required to go to this. So, my R.A. (Resident Assistant) freshman year got our whole floor together, and we all went together. We were given like an hour or two to just kind of walk around. They did this in the Petersen Events Center, where the basketball team plays. I remember walking on the basketball court and seeing the Hydroponics Club. It stuck out to me because I was in the Hydroponics Club in high school, and, well, nothing else really stood out. So I saw that, and I just thought, you know, I have to go talk to them. So I talked to them, and then Luke (former Hydroponics Club President) just gave me a little information about it and told me to come to a meeting. It kind of just went from there. I went to a meeting and liked all the people in the club. I liked what they were doing. I just kept going back to meetings.
Can you explain what you believe the main benefits of joining a club are, and why you would advise someone else to join a college club?
I think the biggest thing that sticks out for me is having mentors, older kids in the club that you know have been through a couple of years of college already, especially (since I was) a freshman not really knowing what to expect out of college. Having some older friends with a little bit more experience, just to kind of guide you a little bit, was very, very helpful.
And then just having some sort of sense of community. Having, you know, a group of friends that you can do more with — I mean, not even just going to the club with, but you can go hang out with, you can go get lunch with. Having mentors and having a sense of community, I think, is really great.
Definitely. So, those are mostly things that benefit you while you’re a student. I know that a lot of people also join clubs to benefit their careers after college. Is that something that has crossed your mind? Do you believe that what you’re doing right now in the Hydroponics Club will set you up for success and whatever it is you want to do after school?
Whatever I do after school — even if it’s not hydroponic-specific — I think having that structure where you have certain responsibilities besides school that you have to get done, that you have to do in order to help other people — to run a meeting, you have to go through a slideshow, know what you’re going to actually talk about and that sort of thing — so, having almost like a separate job from your school, I think, will help in career progression in general.
Also, we’ve had a couple of different alumni from the club who went on to start their own hydroponic business or faculty members that work with the club who have gone on and helped them with their businesses and done other projects. So, having the connections — that sort of thing — will also definitely help.
Now, getting to the challenges of being a member of a club, do you think there are any challenges, and do you have any moments where maybe you feel like you regretted joining?
Some days, maybe, you don’t really feel like going. I mean from my point of view — I can’t necessarily speak on every single club — but for me, specifically, there weren’t many times where I regretted (joining). It’s a little bit of extra work, but it’s not too, too much work.
There are times, like if you have midterms coming up, if you have finals — that sort of thing — and then you have your club on top of that, that gets a little bit stressful. But once all the work is done and you’re just able to go to the club and go hang out with people, it kind of makes it all worth it. It’s a little bit of extra work, but it’s not too much.
You kind of spoke about this at the beginning, but say a student — a freshman — coming to campus wants to join a club in college, but they don’t have a specific club picked out. Where’s the best place for that student to go and learn about different clubs and assess which one they want to join?
The student activities fair is definitely a great place to go. But even if you missed that, if you don’t feel like going out and you’re actually walking around all the tables, you can always find a list of all the different clubs. And each club usually has a little description of what they’re about, what their general meetings are like.
I would say just spending half an hour or so and just going through that. If anything sparks an interest, maybe get in contact with them and go to a couple of meetings and just try things out.
You might go to a couple of meetings and you might think you might not like it as much. Try a different club, and, eventually, you’re bound to find something you like. Colleges now have a ridiculous amount of clubs that span all sorts of likenesses. So, you can find anything.
Great. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us again today, Will. I hope you have a great rest of your day and a great year.
Yeah, thanks so much!
This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.