A few weeks ago, I had a long conversation with a friend about why we decided to attend UT Dallas. Both of us performed well in high school and could have gone to any number of “top-tier” schools. Harvard beckoned to me, but I still came to UT Dallas. Both of us made that decision, but my friend wondered if it was the right decision.
I never had that crisis of confidence. I knew that UT Dallas was the right school for me, but I had to ask myself: Why? The answer: UT Dallas is a school on the rise.
Compared to the Ivy Leagues and other more established schools, UT Dallas is fairly young. That’s especially true when one considers the fact that it only recently turned its focus to becoming a residential college.
To be certain, going to an older school with established institutions can provide a whole host of benefits. With time comes experience, and that experience can serve to make the organization more influential. Perhaps just as important, older organizations carry more prestige, and prestige can carry people a long way in their careers.
There’s one thing missing in that equation, though. When someone joins a longstanding organization, traditions have already been entrenched. The culture of the organization is, more or less, set in stone. What’s more, leadership is hard to come by in such organizations, and newer students especially have to wait before they can stand out among their peers.
Here at UT Dallas, we have our fair share of established organizations. There’s the John Marshall Pre-Law Society. There’s Mock Trial. There’s Moot Court. More importantly, though, we have plenty of room for more student organizations.
This year, I started a new organization on campus called Whoosh the Vote. As the presidential election grew near, we registered hundreds of students to vote. We were out and about on campus, reminding people to go to the polls, to make their voices heard. Unlike other organizations, registering people to vote wasn’t a side project for us. It was our central purpose, and we were proud to make a difference on campus.
As Vice President of Whoosh the Vote during the fall semester, I experienced firsthand the difficulties of establishing a new organization. Even as I went out three days a week to register people to vote, I had to move my way through the university in pursuit of official recognition. Working with others—not just to maintain something, but to start something—is an invaluable experience. As UT Dallas grows, more and more students will be able to gain that experience, and the lessons they learn will last a lifetime.