As the 2023-24 school year kicks off, students returning to campus will be flooded with opportunities to join clubs, groups and organizations to meet new people and form connections.
While students are swarmed with these opportunities, faculty and staff often find themselves unsure how to connect with others across the campus units.
To help those wishing to engage deeper with their fellow Wolverines, The University Record has compiled a list of groups, clubs and organizations open to faculty and staff. Below are some of the options available.
LSA Affinity Groups
When Karla Renee Williams, LSA chief people officer, joined U-M last fall, she spoke to several faculty and staff members who expressed a desire to become further involved with the campus community. Through discussions with people across several units, Williams said, she learned there was a purveying feeling of disconnection.
“(Faculty and staff) were saying things like, ‘We don’t feel very well connected. We feel sometimes like we came in in a remote world, and we haven’t actually met anyone. When we moved to start working here, we didn’t know how to make friends, because we’re adults and adults can’t make friends in the same way,’” she said. “And so, lots of feedback about isolation, not knowing how to connect.”
Williams’ observations reflect the findings from a Michigan Medicine study released in March. The study found one in three older people experience loneliness, isolation and lack of social contact.
To give faculty and staff the platform to connect, Williams spearheaded LSA Affinity Groups.
Officially launching in November 2022, the groups have allowed people to connect over hobbies and interests including board games, knitting and sports.
From 1-3 p.m. Sept. 28 outside the LSA building, LSA will host an Affinity Fair to showcase its 28 clubs and groups that will meet throughout this upcoming school year.
Affinity groups are available to all faculty and staff members. The sponsors of each group must be an LSA member, and the group’s topic must not contradict LSA’s mission and values.
Sports and fitness
MORE BACK TO SCHOOL STORIES
For faculty and staff interested in connecting through athletic events, the university offers several programs designed to help community members bond with fitness.
U-M’s Adaptive Sports & Fitness program features wheelchair tennis, track and field, and wheelchair basketball teams for faculty, staff, students and members of the community. While para sports are modified to allow equitable participation in a sport by people with disabilities, U-M’s adaptive sports teams are open to people with and without disabilities.
Jacob Pettinga, the volunteer assistant coach for U-M’s track and field team, spent the past two years working as the Adaptive Sports’ head track and field coach. He said he enjoyed helping disabled athletes train and learn training methods suitable for their needs, and he encourages others to give adaptive sports a try.
“If you’re an able-bodied person and you want to help or you want to experience adaptive sports and play along with a disabled (player) … just keep an open mind and think about the things that they can do, rather than the things they can’t do,” Pettinga said.
Faculty and staff can also enroll in the School of Kinesiology’s Community Program Activity Classes. The classes include American Red Cross adult and pediatric CPR/AED and first aid, tennis, swimming, pickleball, golf, disc golf and empowerment self-defenses courses. Some courses require a fee and take place off campus.
Recreational Sports offers membership opportunities for faculty and staff that include use of the facilities and amenities offered at the Palmer Field Temporary Facility, Intramural Sports Building and North Campus Recreation Building. Membership allows access to Group-X classes, participation in intramural sports and specialized training classes.
MHealthy also provides options for connecting with others on campus while improving physical and mental well-being. Those include regular challenges based on eating healthy or increasing physical activity — such as Active U, which launches Sept. 5 for eight weeks.
Music and arts
For those interested in the arts, Michigan Medicine’s Arts in Health Program includes the Life Sciences Orchestra. The LSO is the symphonic orchestra for faculty and staff members of U-M’s life sciences community. Graduate and professional students, alumni, retirees and volunteers in the life sciences are welcome to audition as well.
The LSO offers amateur musicians an opportunity to play in a full symphony conducted by students from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. The orchestra performs twice a year at Hill Auditorium.
Randy Regal, a clinical associate professor of pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy and a clinical pharmacist with Michigan Medicine, played trumpet during the symphony’s 2022-23 season. He said performing with the orchestra provided the opportunity to meet others in the life sciences community who shared his passion for music.
“There’s a lot of talent in the life sciences in general. A lot of us, maybe at one time, aspired to become professional musicians, dancers, singers … but found ourselves in a career path that was maybe more lucrative and a little more predictable, but we still loved the arts,” Regal said.
Auditions for the 2023-24 season will take place Aug. 29 and 30, and Sept. 6 and 8.
SMTD’s Voices Valiant Adult Choir is open to older adults interested in singing alongside fellow members of the Ann Arbor community. The choir aims to provide seniors the opportunity to enjoy a social community and improve their mental and physical health through music.
Registration for the 2023 fall term is open. No audition is required. Later in the semester, Voices Valiant will hold a small outdoor informal performance of the season’s repertoire for friends and family.