Starting a Student Organization

By John Stran

“With just over 200 recognized student organizations, YSU has a variety of ways to get involved,” said Assistant Director of Student Activities Carrie Anderson.

Even with the amount of student organizations on campus, students may not find a group that fits them. This, combined with the urge to be inventive, may create the want to start a new student organization.

Students attending Youngstown State University are not limited to current student-run organizations and new organizations are being created every year.

Anderson said there were 22 new groups that applied in the recent school year and each year she usually declines one or two.  

Matthew Lawson started a branch of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at YSU in the fall 2017 semester. The organization was nationally recognized by AIAA as a group in spring semester of 2018.

Lawson said the mission of the group is to advance arts, science and technology in aeronautics and astronautics and to encourage students to further pursue careers in this field. There are currently 25 members.

According to the Penguin Student Handbook, prospective groups must meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria include the name of the group, an electronic copy of constitution and by-laws and meeting the membership requirements.

For Lawson and other student organization leaders, the most difficult part about starting a new student organization was drafting a constitution and by-laws.

Rebecca Dangerfield recently started the Dana Double Reed Society, a group that aims to educate all levels of students about Double Reed instruments such as the oboe and bassoon.

Dangerfield said creating a constitution and by-laws is the most time consuming part about starting a group but added that the Student Activities Office offers assistance to guide students through.   

The membership requirement means the group must have at least five students and a full-time faculty or staff member as an advisor. If a group does not have enough members or is missing some of the required material, there’s the opportunity to apply for provisional registration.

Provisional registration grants a lacking group roughly thirty days as a student organization allowing them three meetings using campus facilities. With this, students must submit a name and purpose of the group as well as contact information and student identification.    

When looking for ways to financially support a group beyond fundraising, the Student Government Association has a student organization fund.

The SGA Executive Vice President Caroline Smith said there is a fund that is specifically used for new student organizations.

“Once a group becomes official, they can apply to the SGA fund and no one else can apply for these funds,” Smith said. “It’s like giving them a one time start-up fee.”  

Smith said SGA spends almost their whole budget funding student organizations and the older groups are generally more likely to receive more funding, but new groups will receive some as well. The most SGA is permitted to give each new group is about $200.   

Prior to starting a new group, Anderson advises looking at the list of current groups to make sure there’s no overlapping and also make sure the time and energy is there.

Smith said she once considered starting a pre-law honors society, but pulled back on doing so once she found there was already a similar group.

“The hardest part, especially with a new group, is sustaining involvement as the semester goes on and things become more stressful and busy,” Lawson said. “Students lose time for their groups and focus more on classes.”

Lawson and Dangerfield started their groups to expand the opportunities to get involved on campus. Their advice to other students looking to start a new group is to find like-minded students and pursue a passion.

“If you have an organization idea, go for it,” Lawson said. “It’s a simple process to start up an organization and all you need is a few friends and people interested in what you are interested in and you have a chance to make it work.”

“The most important part to starting an organization is to find people who are as passionate as you are about the subject,” Dangerfield said. “Once you find other students who are enthusiastic about the organization, the rest will come easy.”

For more information on starting a student organization, go to or go to the Student Activities Office in room 2082 on the second floor of  Kilcawley Center.