Gryffindor. Hufflepuff. Ravenclaw. Slytherin. Sound familiar? Every Harry Potter fan knows the four houses that a person is assigned after completing a sorting ceremony.
But at Furman University, that takes on a new meaning.
“The Furman League of Defense Against the Dark Arts just competed in a quidditch match!” says Jessica Berkey, Furman’s associate director for student activities. “It’s pretty hard to find something that doesn’t fit your interests at Furman.”
When searching for opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom, Furman students aren’t short of options. There are more than 200 student organizations, and dozens of club and intramural teams at the university—with more forming every day. From the performing arts to a thriving Greek life community, it’s easy for students to find a group of friends who share their passions and interests.
Some of the most popular organizations, aside from student government and Greek life, are the Furman University Outdoor Club, Furman Pauper Players and the Heller Service Corps is the university’s largest student organization, placing more than 1,800 students in agencies serving the community each year.
At Furman, the biggest challenge is choosing the organization that you want to join. Every fall, the school holds an activities fair to help new students find an organization.
“Furman offers so many organizations,” says Karina Nazareth ’17 (Tampa, Fla.). “It really helps to pick just a few that really speak to you, and put your whole self into the organization. That’s how you get the most out of it.”
Nazareth’s choice? She became a member of the Furman University Outdoor Club, an organization that brings outdoor enthusiasts and beginners together through an open, online forum.
On the forum, students post when they’re going hiking, mountain biking, or camping and often extend an invitation to their classmates. The club rents gear to its members, including sleeping bags, tents, stoves, backpacks, bouldering crash pads, kayaks and more. Students take the gear on trips all over the Southeast, thanks to the university’s proximity to state parks and the Great Smoky Mountains.
However, like most students at Furman, Nazareth is committed to more than one organization. She’s also a member of a sorority. Furman has 13 active fraternities and sororities with more than 1,200 members—approximately half of the university’s student population.
Cameron Smith, assistant director for student organizations and Greek life, said 332 students joined the Greek community in 2014.
“On bid day, our students experience a variety of emotions – happy, overwhelming, joy,” Smith says. “They’ve got the next eight weeks to learn what it means to be a sorority or fraternity member. Not only does it shape the rest of their college experience, but also their lives.”
If you’re unable to find an organization that matches your interest among the 200 options available at Furman, don’t worry. Starting your organization is easier than you might think. It simply takes 10 students who are not seniors, a faculty advisor, and a constitution. Once those elements are in place, a student can pitch their idea to student government.
According to Student Government Association President Brian Boda ’14, (Marietta, Ga.), dozens of groups seek official recognition for their organization every year. Student government provides funds that enable organizations to host speakers, and events.
“It’s exciting when Furman students aim to create an organization,” Boda says. “They are interested in the longevity (of the organization).”
With the freedom to develop organizations based on a student’s own ideas, beliefs and creativity, it’s even possible to start social movements.
The Furman Creative Collaborative believes creativity should not be pent up or held back. From those principles alone, the group has been able to bring TED talks to Furman through TEDxFurmanU. Launched in 2012, the organization hosted the first TEDx event at Furman last year, and will host a second event on March 22. The focus on March’s event is redesigning education.
For the students involved in TEDxFurmanU, the experience is an example of how you’re able to follow your passion at Furman.
“I wanted to put my skills and interests to work in a way that made a difference in Greenville,” says Ben Riddle ’16 (Mauldin, S.C.), who is helping organize the event. “When I was deciding on which groups to join, I wanted to have creative autonomy. I wanted to take an idea for a new event, and run with it.”