From Chess to Ballroom Dancing there is something for everyone at UMO

Students at the University of Mount Olive are encouraged to engage in an array of on-campus clubs and organizations. Inspired by the liberal arts philosophy of educating the whole person, UMO offers a variety of student programs that foster leadership development, complement the classroom experience, and build community.

UMO has more than 25 clubs and organizations from which to choose. Students interested in the arts participate in a variety of visual and performing arts groups. Student athletes have the chance to have their voices heard through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). International students can discuss their cultural differences and similarities through the International Club.  Representatives in student government collaborate with university leaders to enhance the student experience. Many more student organizations provide entertainment, serve the local community, and provide connections to professional organizations.

If by chance students can’t find something to spark their interest, then they have the ability to start a new club.  According to Nicole Garrett, director of Campus Life, all they need is at least four other friends with the same interest in a particular hobby, subject, or major and an advisor to provide leadership and direction throughout the year. “The group would then submit a new club proposal packet to the Student Affairs Office. It’s as easy as that,” she shared.

Every year new organizations are approved, like most recently the UMO Chapter of the American Chemical Society, otherwise known as the Chemistry Club.  The Chemistry Club which was created to provide opportunities for students to travel to academic conferences and club projects.

“The Club will also connect them to the larger world of chemistry professionals to help prepare them for life after college,” said Jason Pajski, assistant professor of chemistry and club advisor.

The idea to develop a Ballroom Dancing Club came from Associate Professor of Physics Ivan Danchev, who learned ballroom dancing in graduate school.  Students in the club learn the basic steps of the foxtrot, waltz, cha-cha, tango, rumba, and salsa.

Bailey Sutton, a psychology major from La Grange and a member of the Ballroom Dancing Club, said, “I enjoy Ballroom Dance Club because it gives me a chance to get away from the stress of school, and dance it out for an hour or so. It’s funny watching everyone get the hang of the dance steps as well, and it just always ends up being a good time. There is zero pressure for those who feel as though they’re not dancers.  We are all learning together, and we all get to reap the rewards of knowing how to ballroom dance.”

The UMO Chess Club lets students piece together the important elements of reasoning and critical thinking all while having fun with the game of chess. There are many players with a variety of experience, allowing for both competition and learning.

Chess Club president Jeffrey Yasalonis, a sophomore accounting and business management major from Yardley, PA, isn’t just participating in the club to pad his resume or to humor his professors. He said, “It is a lot of fun learning all the moves and playing one another. It is a great opportunity to get involved on campus and to be able to meet new people!”

According to Dr. Glenn Coffey, advisor of the Society, Law and Justice Association (SLJA), one of the benefits of the SLJA Club is for students to make professional connections.  Examples include the fall Criminal Justice Day and the spring Criminal Justice Career Fair, both events sponsored by SLJA.  “Students understand how competitive it is to find work in the field and to enter law or graduate school.  By engaging in learning opportunities outside of the classroom and participating in charitable events, students can contribute to society and set themselves apart from those who merely want to obtain a degree,” he said.

Dr. Natalie Kemp, advisor of the Psychology Club said, “The Psychology Club facilitates applying classroom knowledge across various activities and experiences. When the club hosts fundraising events, the students use their knowledge of persuasion gained from social psychology. When the club participates in a service project, it not only reinforces the mission of UMO, but it also reinforces concepts such as altruism, perspective taking, and empathy. Each of these concepts are covered in the courses taken by the major. Finally, the Psychology Club creates a community within the major where students and faculty members can engage with one another outside of the standard classroom setting. These aspects are key to the liberal arts education UMO offers.”

Another advantage of being a part of an on-campus club is being able to make a difference in the local community by participating in service projects. The Collegiate FFA raises hundreds of dollars each year to purchase winter coats for local students at Carver Elementary School.  The Sisterhood of Crown and Martlet (SOCAM) raises money for cancer during their annual Sing for Another Day benefit concert. The Future Educators Association and the Prospective Teachers Association collect school supplies and books for local children in need.  Whether participating in community cleanup, tutoring, or volunteering, students involved in UMO clubs are working to contribute to the common good.

Peyton Moore of Whiteville, NC, vice president of SOCAM, said, “Being a part SOCAM means having a second family. It means having a support system when you need it most and being there for them when they need it. It means being a part of something that is bigger than you and being able to make a difference in someone’s life, no matter how big or how small. Having these deep personal relationships with fellow students can help you tremendously throughout your time at UMO.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Dan Sullivan summed it up when he said, “Clubs provide a wonderful opportunity for students to join, lead, and expand their horizons, make friends, and have fun.  There are groups of every interest – educational, artistic, pre-professional, athletic, religious, service oriented, and more. Clubs are an important part of student development, because student involvement often goes beyond the topic or focus of the organization to positively impact not only students, but the campus as a whole.”

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston

Community College.  For more information, visit