Student Organizations Offer Stimulating Addition to College Life

November 25, 2013

Nothing attracts Georgia Tech students like the opportunity to indulge their intellectual curiosities, engage in fun computing-related work and build friendships that may last a lifetime.

"They also like free food," says Troy Peace, with a laugh. As part of his role as the College of Computing’s academic program coordinator, he not only advises student groups, he helps supply their meetings with plenty of things to eat.

The College of Computing recently combined   a fair and movie night in the auditorium of the Klaus Advanced Computing Building to introduce students to the many specialized organizations available to them.

That can be quite a few meetings since the College currently supports more than two dozen student organizations. The groups cater to a range of interests from anime to robotics, business to the visual arts. To cite a few examples: MAKE gathers in the College's prototyping lab and helps students build and program their own electronic devices. The Entertainment Software Producers group designs, programs and plays video games. Students provide valuable technical assistance to philanthropic organizations through HumaniTech. Other groups provide social and academic programming designed for the particular interests of minorities and women.

"We also have a Freshman Activities Board that plans social events for College of Computing freshmen to help ease the stress throughout the semester and provide an easy transition into the college atmosphere," says Peace. "The board sponsors fun activities where students can socialize outside of the classroom atmosphere."

Of 29 student organizations, the three largest are: GIT MAD, whose members develop mobile applications; Grey Hat, which explores various aspects of Internet security; and the Programming Team, which writes algorithms to solve a variety of tasks. This latter group has distinguished itself in programming competitions, too. In 2011, the Georgia Tech team won the Southeast Region USA Programming Contest, earning an invitation to the world finals in Warsaw, Poland.

Members of The Agency, a club focused on computerized intelligence, meets for its weekly meeting.

College of Computing students who are involved in a group or club generally post higher GPAs than non-members, according to Peace, who attributes the better grades to the high educational content of group meetings.

"They'll often have speakers come in to talk about a particular topic of interest to the group," he says. "That's what keeps a lot of students coming back to meetings."

Members also benefit from interacting with each other, he continues. "You learn a lot of things from your peers just in the regular course of discussions and activities. It's really amazing to watch. This is also a big part of the overall relationship building that makes participation in a student organization rewarding."

Some two dozen corporate affiliates support student organizations with financial and material resources. Several affiliates also sponsor events such as hack-a-thons and Georgia Tech team competitions.

In addition, these companies actively recruit new talent from among the organizations' memberships, particularly during the College’s career fairs, held every fall and spring. In 2012, 115 companies were represented at the three-day fall event, and 90 attended the two-day fair in the spring. Corporate affiliates conduct information sessions and on-site job interviews at the fairs, as well as special presentations during the year at organization meetings.

The entire experience — activities and meetings, the interaction with corporate affiliates — imparts a certain polish to Tech freshmen, according to Peace.

"When they first come in here, they're a lot like every other new student," he says. "But when that first semester is over, you can see they have more confidence in themselves; they feel part of something larger, and they're more aware of all the opportunities they have as Georgia Tech students."

Information regarding any particular student group is difficult to miss. Organizations staff information tables at FASET, the major new-student orientation program at Georgia Tech, and at other orientation sessions held during the summer. In addition, incoming students are required to take the CS 1100 freshman transition course, which includes presentations and sign-up details about the various clubs and groups. Finally, an Organization Fair is held each year in the atrium of the Klaus Advanced Computing Building, usually in conjunction with a free activity such as Movie Night.

The College of Computing's chapter of the Association of Computing Machinery recently sponsored and competed     in a programming contest.

"We try to make sure that everyone is participating in something," Peace says. "Tech is hard enough. You don't want students sitting around in the dorm by themselves feeling isolated and overwhelmed. It really helps to interact with people and discover common bonds, common interests. These relationships build up within the organization, in the classroom and beyond."

Just as Georgia Tech students are famously devoted to their studies, they are equally dedicated to their organizations.

 "If you go to any of these student meetings, you'll see they're not just yukking it up and eating pizza and wasting time," Peace says. "They're actively involved in things like a discussion of Internet security, or they're playing video games they've created or building something in the prototyping lab. They take active ownership of their groups, and they do a pretty good job."

Please contribute your own student group photos at the College of Computing's Facebook page.

College of Computing Student Organizations