In the realm of online higher education, the common misconception is that a sense of community is hard to come by. However, virtual student organizations defy this notion by not only forging strong connections among online students but also offering unparalleled avenues for professional growth.
Take, for instance, Benies Gyedu, president of Western Governors University's (WGU) Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Virtual Student Chapter, and Edna Jonsson, a former president of the WGU Cybersecurity Club, who both attest to the transformative power of virtual student clubs.
Gyedu sees the value in her participation with a virtual student club.
“Being a member of the WGU SHRM Virtual Student Chapter, I have learned about and been exposed to additional HR resources and tools that help me on a daily basis in my professional life and as a student,” Gyedu said.
WGU recently celebrated that SHRM awarded a 2022-2023 Superior Merit Award designation to the WGU student chapter for “providing superior growth and development opportunities to its student members.” WGU’s SHRM student chapter has 760 members.
“SHRM student chapter members embody the upcoming cohort of HR trailblazers, and it's vital to highlight their achievements,” said Michael P. Aitken, SHRM chief membership officer. “The dedication displayed by the WGU SHRM Virtual Student Chapter underscores that the future of the profession is in good hands. I commend their achievements and their adeptness in cultivating inventive initiatives, growth and enthusiasm for HR, especially as we steer through evolving work landscapes.”
Faculty advisers also see the plethora of benefits virtual clubs offer students.
“Our team of faculty advisers and student leaders work diligently every year to craft a valuable calendar of events for our student members, and to see it pay off in the form of a SHRM Student Chapter Superior Merit Award, for the second year in a row, reaffirms that such student organizations create meaningful opportunities for our students,” said Ashley Dugger, primary faculty adviser for WGU SHRM Virtual Student Chapter and associate dean and director of HR and Organizational Psychology Programs.
Virtual student organizations provide hands-on experiences to its members to reinforce and build-on the curriculum from their coursework. For example, earlier this year, WGU’s Cybersecurity Club finished second place in the virtual At Large Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. As a result of their high standing, WGU's team earned a spot in the Wild Card Round where they competed to represent WGU in the largest college-level cyber defense competition in the country.
The WGU Cybersecurity Club has more than 7,000 members, including Jonsson, its former president, WGU College of IT.
“For me, and the members of the WGU Cybersecurity Club, it is not just a choice; it's an investment in your future. It's where networking opportunities become career connections, where hands-on experiences, such as competing with the club in the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and National Cyber League, turn into invaluable skills, and where the hidden talents of our university's students shine as the guardians of a secure digital world,” Jonsson said.