LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 30, 2021) — With over 500 student organizations at the University of Kentucky, it’s natural for students to feel overwhelmed. To help alleviate this feeling, UK Involvement Advisors are a group of peer leaders who exist to help students choose the path that is right for them.
When Sanjana Dhayalan came to UK, she felt that nervous feeling. "How will I fit in?" and "Where do I even begin?" were just a couple of the dozens of questions that ran through her mind as she prepared to leave India to come receive her education here. After she found where she wanted to plant her roots, she now helps others with that same task, as a UK involvement advisor. Student Involvement Advisors work under the Office of Student Organizations and Activities, part of the Office for Student Success.
UKNow spoke with Dhayalan, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, to learn more about how she helps fellow students find community, and the impact finding hers has been on her college journey.
UKNow: Your first year at UK was pretty unique. You completed your first semester of college half the world away from home in India, and took your classes virtually in another time zone. What was that experience like?
Sanjana: My first semester was pretty difficult. While I was taking classes from India, I couldn’t get connected with any student organizations. I looked at BBNvolved, but I didn’t know involvement advising was an option. It was difficult for me to find organizations on my own and to get in touch with them.
When I came to campus for my second semester of school, I became an involvement advisor. Through advising other students, I’ve learned about more opportunities that are available to me, too. I’ve also gotten involved in Student Activities Board (SAB), and that’s been a really great experience.
UKNow: Did getting involved on campus as an involvement advisor help you to find organizations that were a great fit for you?
Sanjana: Advising students helps me because I learn from their experiences. It’s been rewarding to help other students find their own organizations. Some of them are lost and do not know how to navigate all of the opportunities available to them. Helping them narrow down their opportunities has also been a great experience for me.
UKNow: You have the chance to meet a lot of different people on campus in your role. What is your favorite part of these interactions and the thing you find most rewarding about them?
Sanjana: I love meeting the new freshmen and incoming students because I get to meet a lot of people with a wide variety of interests. Many of them are so excited about getting involved and immediately book an advising appointment. It’s encouraging to know that the freshmen do want to be involved and want to know about opportunities on campus. Through these welcome presentations I was able to, with the other advisors, reach out to a lot of students and give them a lot of information.
UKNow: COVID-19 has impacted many of the facets of our daily lives. Have you noticed that in your role as an involvement advisor?
Sanjana: Desire for involvement has increased because without in-person classes last year, they weren’t able to connect with their classmates in the way they usually would. The pandemic has definitely had a negative impact on students’ ability to socialize and connect, so getting involved and finding those recreational organizations helps them really find their place at UK. This year, I know that students are going to want to get out of their residence halls because they’ve been in their houses for so long. Getting involved with an organization would definitely help them branch out and meet new people.
UKNow: Is there a particular student you tend to work with, or is it a wide variety?
Sanjana: It’s been a mixed bag — graduate students are also looking for opportunities to get involved. They want to stay connected, too. Many out-of-state students are looking to get involved, but also in-state students are interested. In general — it is for everyone because everyone wants to find that feeling of belonging in the campus community.
UKNow: As a current student working with many others, how would you describe the impact that being involved on campus can have on the overall student experience?
Sanjana: My first semester at UK I wasn’t involved in any of the organizations, so I didn’t connect with a lot of people. I couldn’t meet new people since I was still in India, so I didn’t know what their UK experience was like. Once I came here and I got involved with SAB, I was able to meet a lot of new people and really make connections with them. For me, it’s a stress-buster to go into the SAB office, sit with the other students and talk to them about their classes or how their summer was. It’s my way of relaxing from my classes. There are also education-related organizations — I’m a part of NeuroCats, too. They have helped me focus on my future, and it’s been great to learn from seniors who have a lot of experience. I would say joining a student org is a must to get the full experience of being a student at UK.
UKNow: How can students get into contact with you and your office?
Sanjana: Even if students know what their interests are I think involvement advising would definitely help them too and they needn’t hesitate to get involved. Students don’t have to get involved immediately after an appointment — they can actually look throughout the semester and figure out how their time schedule works. It’s just more information to help them get out of their residence halls and meet new people.
BBNvolved is the best option — under the forms tab there’s an involvement advising request form. Students will fill in their basic contact details and then we will reach out to them through email, in-person or Zoom appointments. Students can also send a message email@example.com.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.