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Letter from the Dean: Why we shouldn’t go it alone

Recently, I was invited to visit with the Hammock Club. Maybe you are like me and are asking yourself, “Hmm, what the heck is a Hammock Club, what do they do, what’s it all about?” I made some presumptions and thought, well, it’s probably a fun group of students chilling out and…I didn’t really know.

When I arrived at the site of the meeting – let’s call it the Hammock – there were about 60 students already there. They were talking and chatting, lots of connections were being made, and generally, everyone seemed happy and fully engaged. There were people in solo hammocks, some people shared hammocks, and, in some cases, the hammocks were strung from trees in a stack of three or four.

The setting was a grove of pine trees near the Recreation Center, and it was a calming, light-infused and completely welcoming environment. You can never go wrong being in nature!

I was greeted warmly, met some students and then began taking in what was really happening. First, everyone who came was genuinely welcomed, and while I was there, at least five students who had never visited came to try it out. They didn’t need a hammock as there were plenty to loan, and they set up with each other, separately or close to others who had been there before. Students across the grove were chatting, meditating, taking in the surroundings, people-watching, chatting and getting to know each other as they relaxed, experienced some downtime, and had an experience that seemed to be filling them all with joy. I met one person who was new to campus, feeling sort of isolated, and she was taking a risk by coming to the event that night. Almost immediately, she was genuinely a part of the group. People were getting to know her, introducing themselves and making her feel that she was part of that community – this community. She was happy, and everyone who met her seemed enriched and happy, too.

Now, it’s true that a bean supper – famous in Maine – doesn’t make community, but it does give the opportunity for community to start. It seeds possibility and that seems to be the work, role and function of all our student groups here at Maine. We have some 200+ groups, so there is likely something that will appeal to everyone, and as I have observed groups over the years, they all have something in common with the Hammock Club. They are warm, welcoming and supportive environments where people are intent on making connections, caring for others and getting involved in something outside our normal day-to-day worries and concerns.

Groups matter, engagement matters, belonging matters and all of this can be realized through getting involved with a student group. It can be a big one or a small one, but it’s the feeling of connection that comes with joining and being active in a group that’s the real payoff.

It can feel risky to put your toe in the waters of groups, but the risk is worth it. It might feel less risky if you go with a friend, talk to someone about the group in advance of your first visit, or reach out to the Center for Student Involvement at to get some intel.

So, if you are thinking that maybe a student organization is for you, here are some reasons to consider one:

  1. Groups and social connections make us feel better, and they improve our view of the world.
  2. When we meet other people and get a chance to view the life – space from the perspective of others, we grow and change.
  3. Other people and other ways of thinking make us stronger and can help us see the value of doing for others.
  4. Groups let us step out of our day-to-day hum drum and offer us balance, a sense of connection, and a strong sense that “I’m not in this alone.”
  5. Student Organizations help us relax, widen our lens, help us blow off stress, and they give us a real and honest sense of belonging.
  6. Getting outside our personal space and getting involved through connecting with others makes us happy, and we can all use some happiness.

I hope you’ll give a group or groups a try. You matter, and bringing who and what you are to this sort of experience will be worth it in ways big and small. If we all put in a bit of ourselves, we’ll all be able to reap the benefits of the beauty that human connection brings. If you’re hesitant, reach out to me, and I’ll check out the group with you, and if you have a group and want me to visit, reach out!

Jump in, the water’s fine!

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