College, Disabilities, and Success

#28 Engagement in Clubs and Organizations on Campus with Christian Haas

July 27, 2021 Mickie Hayes/ Guest Christian Haas Season 1 Episode 28
#28 Engagement in Clubs and Organizations on Campus with Christian Haas
College, Disabilities, and Success
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College, Disabilities, and Success
#28 Engagement in Clubs and Organizations on Campus with Christian Haas
Jul 27, 2021 Season 1 Episode 28
Mickie Hayes/ Guest Christian Haas

Christian shares his knowledge and expertise regarding the engagement value for students with disabilities who join clubs and organizations on campus.  He describes his own background with student government and various clubs, and explains how students who become involved in clubs will benefit in college classroom discussions, be able to engage with peers and improve  their social skills, and ultimately learn skills that will impact their lives and careers. aYLu3DB2pyvWkkaTxDg0

Show Notes Transcript

Christian shares his knowledge and expertise regarding the engagement value for students with disabilities who join clubs and organizations on campus.  He describes his own background with student government and various clubs, and explains how students who become involved in clubs will benefit in college classroom discussions, be able to engage with peers and improve  their social skills, and ultimately learn skills that will impact their lives and careers. aYLu3DB2pyvWkkaTxDg0

Mickie  0:00  
Sometimes it's easy for a student with a disability to forget the other opportunities that college offers. When a person starts at college, they're starting fresh; they come with no extra baggage. The people around them don't really know their history and any other concerns or issues they may have had in the past. And so an individual starting college gets to meet all kinds of people and to learn about all different kinds of opportunities that are available in this world. Today we're going to meet Christian Haas. Christian and I have known each other for quite a while and I knew when I wanted to do a podcast on clubs and activities that he was the person to talk to. And I was right. He shares some incredible insights on why clubs and activities are so important for students in college, and he talks about the benefits and the hidden benefits of joining clubs when you have a disability. So sit back and relax and enjoy Episode 28 "Engagement in Clubs and Organizations on Campus with Christian Haas" on College, Disabilities, and Success by Mickie Hayes. The opinions in this podcast are my own, but please reach out to your college, physician, or legal services for any additional information.

Mickie  1:17  
I'd like to introduce Christian Haas, who worked with me at the University of South Florida St. Pete when I was the director of a grant for students with intellectual disabilities. And I asked Christian to come on today to talk about student government and clubs and organizations because he was very active in student government the entire time that I knew him there. And he has a lot of insight into the benefits and the advantages and the importance of student government, which applies to students with disabilities, because there's so much potential that an individual gains from being part of student government and Christian is going to share that information with us today. So Christian, Hi, it's nice to see you again. 

Christian  2:04  
Hi, Mickie. Good to see you again. 

Mickie  2:06  
It is nice to see you too. Thanks for joining me. We're going to talk about student government and how a student with a disability could or should become active at the college. So they get to know people make friends and feel more comfortable in the college environment. I thought since you knew a lot about student government, and you were very active in student government at the University of South Florida, St. Pete, you could share your knowledge in that area, if you would, please. 

Christian  2:34  
Oh, for sure. And thanks again, Mickie. Pumped that you have a podcast, this is awesome! Can't wait to keep listening! You know, student government was my particular avenue towards involvement, but there are so many opportunities that maybe don't carry the stigma that many think Student Government. Obviously government has kind of a, to some, an annoying connotation. But you know, in general involvement outside of the classroom was honestly what defined my college experience.

Mickie  3:02  
 Could you explain that? That's interesting. 

Christian  3:04  
It's like, my actual degree definitely helped a lot. But involvement outside of the classroom complemented it in so many ways. 

Mickie  3:12  
Yeah. And I think involvement in student government and activities outside of the classroom really complements any degree that a student is going after. 

Christian  3:20  
For sure. I mean, even if you want to just focus on your degree field, you want to be a journalism student, you know, work for the campus newspaper, you know, or I mean, there's any you can find a correlation to any degree in the surrounding community, whether it's on campus or you know, out in a in a local business, really taking the time to get involved outside of the classroom. It goes under the radar for so many people, but it's one of the most important things I think college students can do. 

Mickie  3:44  
That's a really, really good point. What were some of the clubs and organizations that you belong to when you were a college student?

Christian  3:51  
I got involved in I was one of those, like, overly over ambitious students, I basically made the mistake of over committing and under delivering and you know, you join 10 organizations, and you can only show up to five of them a week, and then you you know, you feel bad about it. 

Mickie  4:03  
So it probably would be a good idea for an individual who has a particular disability for whatever, whatever kind of disability they have to maybe choose one or two to start with? 

Mickie  4:14  

Christian  4:14  
I don't know I mean, I guess maybe the the the cast net approach or the you throw everything against a wall, see what sticks approach worked for me, I just joined everything and then filtered out the ones that maybe I wasn't as interested in. My major was political science and leadership and my minor in leadership, and I was excited to become involved in the community. And you know, I was like, What do I care about the environment, education, economics? Well, how do I pick one politics that will talk that will touch everything, right? So I did things like Student Government and the debate club in the Law Society. You know, mostly at first thinking like this is going to help me get into law school or this is going to help me get into good. You know, one of my law professor, or one of my political science professors was the advisor for the Law Society. 

Christian  4:59  
So you know, at first that I was young, so it's not nefarious, but it's it's more, these are a means to an end. And then as I started in organizations like student environmental awareness society, we called it SEAS or, you know, I made some good friends in the Black Student Association and kind of crashed their party and different types of conversations and different people in the garden club. And then in our leadership minor, we, you know, did a lot of community service projects and just like through organizing events and fundraisers, and discussing or debating amongst friends, we have $1,000, where do we spend it to make the most impact? Do we want to make a difference in the community? Or do we want to get more students in the door and like, having those types of value discussions actually helped me have conversations in the classroom and my comfortability talking to my peers in these clubs in a less pressure filled setting, I think it really spilled over in my comfortability in the classroom, speaking up and making suggestions and engaging in dialogue and things like that. 

Mickie  5:55  
That's a very, very interesting point. I appreciate you mentioning that. Because I think you're right, it carries over into the classroom. Yeah.

Christian  6:02  
There's less pressure. I mean, from the first day of class, it's like, who's going to be the first one to raise their hand you know, and who's gonna talk and then when somebody talks too much everybody looks at him like, oh, here goes, Mr. know it all. And this is note, you know, but in the club setting, it's like, Hey, everybody, you do these, like quirky games, like everybody go around and say three facts about themselves or whatever. And one of them's  a lie.

Mickie  6:22  

Christian  6:23  
Yeah. The icebreakers, right, and as corny as those seem on the surface, it's like, you really do break the ice, and they're not as much, um, there's not as much preparation and when you're trying to be heard publicly, for the first time. I know, like, I used to rehearse what I was gonna say, every time before I wanted to speak up and one of my political science classes Okay, here's, here's the sentence structure, here's how you're gonna say, all right, and sometimes I'd even write it out, like, here's how I'm going to say it. Maybe it's even a question and I script the question. But then once you're in these free flowing conversations, and people are making jokes, and there's pizza, and you're in a club environment, you learn that like a conversation, it just starts kind of organically. And that's really where the learning takes place is through conversations, not some young know-it-all political science, students scripting, a question that he thinks he's gonna stump his professor. And then the professor quickly says, That's not even what we're talking about. It's like, that's kind of like where I was, where I was headed.

Mickie  7:16  
where you're headed, but you saw the clubs making a difference.

Christian  7:19  
Because you can be challenged in a way that doesn't hit the ego,  especially maybe this is unique to political science and leadership, you know, programs, it's like, somebody wants to sound deep when they make a statement or ask a question. The professor is not in a place to say, well, you're wrong. And here's why. And the students then are either turned off by that, or they want to one up you and be the one that asked the deeper question as the deeper rebuttal. But in the club setting, you know, in the conversations in the clubs are, it's something about how do we increase engagement? How do we get more people here? We have a certain budget, what are we going to spend the money on? And so those types of the budget conversations, I've been drawn to these types of conversations You have a certain amount of money. You have a group, which indicates that you have a common set of interests, or a common purpose, if you've gotten that far, and you care about a certain amount of things. So you have kind of a shared set of values. And you bring these people from all different backgrounds together with $5,000 in a common purpose. What can we do? you know, and there's tons of things you can do, you can house or you can weed the garden beds, or you know, whatever. And then it becomes a kind of a friendly banter of, well, this could impact in this way. And that could impact in this way. And so you suggest an idea, that's the best thing you could think of somebody says, Well, this is another way to think about it. And it doesn't hurt your ego to say, Oh, my God, I didn't think about it that way. 

Mickie  8:40  
You know what else Christian that you're mentioning there from the student with the disabilities point of view, that is a good opportunity for them to advocate for the particular needs or situations or accommodations or support that they might not be able to get on the college campus? Yeah, there's, you could take a whole other spin on that what you just said for an individual with a disability. Yeah, I could see that making a huge, huge difference. 

Christian  9:08  
Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, there is contrary to you think you're joining clubs, just to you know, make friendship and stuff like that. But there is a there's a lot of money allocated to student engagement, student life, student development. And whether you're involved in student government or you're just a club leader, that's advocating for more money towards your club, like there's a lot of money to be had to make a difference. And now that we think about it, when it was really the students that put the pressure on the administrators to focus on environmental issues and sustainability on campus, and so we did LEED certified buildings, we advocated for LEED certification and buildings, and we advocated for certain percentages of our student fees to be allocated towards clean energy, and it's easy to see how none of that stuff would have been a priority. If there wasn't this uniformity amongst the student. 

Mickie  9:56  
It would give a student with a disability of the chance to make their needs known in that whole big picture of things. Yeah, things like automatic doors, things like Braille signs, things like stairs and elevators and elevators that work in elevators that don't work. Because we've all run into that. 

Christian  10:14  
You're right, making it known. And this is not to knock the hierarchy of the university. Administrators are not the ones who are going to recognize where their accessibility is lacking, of course, it's going to be at the very ground level, the folks with the disabilities, and then on the on the very next very next level, it's going to be their friends that are walking with them to class that recognize access to staircase and the other one can't, or you know, their mentors that are helping them with it with an assignment and they recognize that the text is too small, whatever it may be students that are going to hit the barriers headfirst. And so yeah, you're absolutely right. On the council, it there's no better person to advocate for that stuff than the students. And so, you know, in some sense, once you recognize that it, you almost have a responsibility to empower the students to take advantage of the money that they have access to. 

Mickie  11:01  
How would a student with a disability find a club or organization to join? Who's handling that? Is there? Is there a faculty member or somebody in charge of a club? So how about a little bit about the structure of the club? 

Christian  11:13  
Yeah, so the universities are basically compartmentalize into, you have academics, and you have finance, and you have development, fundraising, and alumni resources and stuff like that. And then you have student life and student life and engagement. And so I'm not the first one, obviously, to realize that you learn a lot outside of the classroom, there's a whole pillar of the university is student life and engagement, everything from Multicultural Affairs, to Career Services, to student government, to the surf club, to the garden club, to the Gay Straight Alliance, all of these organizations fall under student life. And honestly, any one of them you can become involved with whether as an unpaid intern, a paid intern, a Club member, a club leader, a president of something or the other, you would want to go to your student life and engagement office, it could be student engagement, or student empowerment, there's a bunch of different buzz words. 

Mickie  12:00  
Right, it could be called something different on a different college. 

Christian  12:03  
Wherever your clubs and organizations reside, this day and age, they should have some sort of digital presence where you can find their weekly monthly meetings. Fun fact, if they don't have a weekly or monthly meeting, or if they're not being consistent with their meetings, that's also that's a, that's an indication of a unique opportunity to dive in headfirst and become involved heavily. So I remember being interested in the club, and they didn't meet. So when I was interested in clubs that did meet, I was nervous to join him, and I didn't, you know, I was the young guy on campus. So who are they going to let me speak? Are they going to, you know, know that I'm here, but when there wasn't an active club, but it exists on the University website, it was like, wait a minute, do they need help? Do they need leaders, and so you join it, you learn that, hey, we're struggling here. And you might be the one person that helps keep that club alive? Oh, that's a really, really good point. Yeah, it's a little bit of a risk free way of dipping your toes into the engagement waters as well. Because you know, if it's your first time getting involved, and you don't really know what you're doing, it's alright, the club was floundering to begin with,

Mickie  13:04  
There you go!

Christian  13:05  
There's something to be said about joining an entity or an organization already running full steam ahead and you join it, and you just got to keep up and kind of maintain. But there's something a little bit more exciting about joining a new organization or a fledgling group or a group that wasn't something at one point and is struggling, because then you can go in and kind of - yeah, I don't know, like brainstorm a new vision or a new way forward and actually have like a stake in its future instead of just being kind of a cog in the wheel. And so that's also interesting. 

Mickie  13:34  
That's a very interesting perspective. Yeah. 

Christian  13:35  
And you know, just because there's 30 clubs on campus, and you're not interested in any of them, what are you interested in? It's pretty easy nowadays, to start a club, you get to other people. I mean, in our universities, you get to other people, you write bylaws, which typically you can find online or the university would give you a basically a template, you know, the governing documents that you need to start it up in twice a year, once a year, you can apply for anywhere from 300 to $10,000, to run your club in organization. And so whatever your vision is, and then here's the thing, this is what really the point of the whole involvement outside of the classroom is whatever job you get, whatever interests you have, when you graduate, you're going to know how to manage a budget, recruit members, coordinate volunteers, hold meetings, facilitate meetings, create agendas, upload your minutes, there are so many important skills that you don't learn in the classroom. Yeah. And you know, so I work. I work for a local government right now. And this is my first time working for a government since I was in student government, if you don't count our our grant funded program at the University, and a lot of it is exactly the same. We have board meetings, four or five board meetings every month. We need to have an agenda out. We need to have minutes we need to make the members show up. So you call them in between meetings. Hey, you said you're going to do this. Do you need any help reaching out to these contacts? Are we going to get the product and time there's so much overlap that you don't even realize it on the ground. You know, when you're in college, you just have a, I'm so busy, I have this test and I have to go to, you know, the gardening club meeting and I haven't called the pansy supplier. And these are the same exact kind of conversations we have in our head as adults. And yeah, you desensitize yourself to the stress and the pressure. And you realize, at the other end of this to do list is going to be an accomplished goal 

Mickie  15:19  
Well, that's a really good way for a student who doesn't know their direction. They don't know where they see their future. You know, like some kids, they have a clear vision, I'm going to do this, I've always wanted to do this since I was five years old, and and they follow that path. And that's that's that, then there's others who found or they have no sense of direction, they don't know what they want to have some major, they don't know what they can handle. And that's a really non threatening way to get some insight. 

Christian  15:48  
Yeah, it's low risk.

Mickie  15:51  
And it's things you never really thought about.

Christian  15:52  
And you can't stress enough how low risk it is. I mean, you're going to a group of other students, and nobody has any idea what's going on. It's best case scenario, somebody's been there three years longer than you, you know, and it's, it's all fake it till you make it all the way up, I still feel I kind of feel like you have to make it. But there's no stress, there's no risk, you can you can try out the voices that you've you know, not, you know, not fake voices, but you have the confident opinionated person in you try it out at this meeting, you know, and if it doesn't go well, and it's just not the personality group that you're into, you know, go to another club. I mean, there's tons of opportunities to get involved. And even the worst experiences, you're going to learn something from, okay, these are the types of people I hope I don't have to work with when you go 

Mickie  16:34  
If nothing else, you learn that part of it. Yeah, this has been eye opening. And you have spoken on so many angles that I hadn't even thought about. You know, yeah, because I mean, I think of clubs as well, we were all going to get together and I don't know, be friends. 

Christian  16:51  
Yeah, friends, hang out and have pizza and oh, no, definitely a part of it. That's definitely a part of it. And yeah, and, and the thing is, like you were saying, you don't really know what path you want to take until you kind of run into it. It's like some people help write their first grant, you know, as a part of a club and then gets $25,000. And that just motivates them to be a nonprofit grant writer, you know, or Yeah, some people paint a house in a dilapidated neighborhood. And they're like, you know, what I'm going to be doing, you know, whether it's painting, or construction work. I want to renovate houses in in lower income parts of town, more power to the people that know what they want to do from childhood. My wife 

Mickie  17:30  
They're few and  far between 

Christian  17:31  
Yeah, she has a framed picture. It's a and the handwriting is just as bad as my handwriting here. It's a

Mickie  17:37  
Haha, That hasn't changed since I knew you!

Christian  17:39  
Exactly. It's always gonna be bad. But when she was like eight years old, she did a fake vet report on her dog, you know, she wrote down the weight, the height, what she thought it how it was walking everything. She wanted to be a veterinarian since she was a little girl. And here she is. She's a veterinarian, as like that is so few and far between. 

Mickie  17:56  
You've got that right. It's very few and far between. She's very lucky. I mean, to have that kind of passion. committed. 

Christian  18:02  
Yeah, she's lucky to have that passion when she's definitely She's amazing. But the other thing is, there's so much anxiety around not knowing what you want to do when you get to college. And it's so normal that it's, it's if everybody knew how confused and directionless and rudderless every other college student was, we would all be so much more relieved. Because if you look around and somebody think they seem passionate, but they don't really know if they want to go into the medical field, or they don't know if they want to be a lawyer, they just think they know it and get some hands on experience writing grants or rebuilding houses or cleaning up polluted waterways, you really don't know what you're going to be passionate about until you do it. 

Mickie  18:43  
Get started and do it. Wow. So much, so much. Well, Christian, thank you so very much today. It's been great. It's been fun. And it's been very enlightening. It really has you brought angles into it that that had never crossed my mind. So this is great. Thank you, Christian. 

Christian  18:59  
Well, thanks again. Mickie. I'm glad you thought of me and I had a great time. 

Mickie  19:02  
Thank you for joining me today. I really, really appreciate you being here. If you get a chance, go to my website, Mickie, M i c k i e and go to the podcast page on that website. And there's a form there where you can submit any suggestions or ideas for future podcasts. So feel free to send me your thoughts I I would really love to hear and as a thank you for doing that I have a free ebook, "Insights from a Learning Disability Specialist" and it contains over 30 questions that you want to be sure you know the answers to when you have that first meeting with the disability specialist at the college. So it'll give you some insights into the kinds of questions you should be prepared to ask once more. Thank you again for joining me and Christian and I look forward to talking to you again next week. Bye. 

Mickie  20:00  
Information contained throughout this podcast has been gleaned from my own personal experiences, but to ensure accuracy, please contact the Disability Services at the College of your choice to have first hand information and the most up to date policies and procedures followed for your particular institution of higher education. The content in any of these podcasts is not intended as a substitute for information from legal, educational or medical professionals. Always seek the advice of your attorney or qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have with regards to legal educational or medical concerns.