While everyone has a different path, the Georgetown University experience offers much to those willing to engage with extracurricular activities. Whether through organizations, campaigns or social groups, Georgetown provides myriad opportunities for students to act on their interests and find those with similar priorities.
A variety of these on-campus extracurriculars have driven my personal and professional growth over the past four years.
The fall of my freshman year, I joined GU Fossil Free, a group pushing for the university to divest from fossil fuels or remove investments in fossil fuels from our endowment. I found the mission of the group to be deeply purposeful for me, and I became further engaged with GUFF.
The more work I did with GUFF, the more I learned to be an effective activist. Outside the system, I pushed university leadership toward action by helping lead rallies in Red Square. Within the system, I discussed investing policy details in wood-paneled rooms with university officials and wrote op-eds in The Hoya to explain the importance of divestment to the broader community. My most memorable experience was convincing the board of directors of the ethical and financial arguments for coal divestment at the end of my first year, which led to the removal of direct coal investments from our endowment, catapulting Georgetown to its status as a global environmental thought leader.
I was able to learn and act because I was aware of my lack of knowledge and experience. This healthy self-conception allowed me to benefit from the mentorship of inspirational peers, especially the women among them. They taught me the importance of fighting for something you believe in while preventing personal burnout by taking the time to care for yourself.
Yet progress rarely comes without failures. As vice speaker of the Georgetown University Student Association senate my sophomore year, a referendum on divestment for which I pushed failed by a vote of my peers. As uncomfortable and embarrassing as my failure was then, I learned that taking the time to get people on board with the rationale behind important decisions before a public discussion and vote is crucial to success.
At the end of my junior year, I started Georgetown Ventures, a student-run startup accelerator for undergraduate entrepreneurs. Knowing little to nothing about entrepreneurship and just as little about building an organization, my roommate and I transformed the organization from an idea to a 45-person team that has provided peer support to five startups and at least 20 entrepreneurs. The lessons I had already learned from GUFF gave me the skills to build a group from scratch and the confidence to lead it. More impressive, I can now spell entrepreneurship without a single typo.
To any rising freshmen and sophomores reading: Join student groups, keep a lookout for those that give you a sense of purpose and do not be discouraged by rejection. Heavy involvement in student groups is not for everyone. The college trifecta of having a vibrant social life, a great academic record and a healthy amount of sleep is immensely difficult for even the most put-together among us. Finding a balance between the three requires a great deal of self-awareness and maturity, but balance becomes easier as your personal and professional abilities expand. So, keep your ambitions high while prioritizing self-care.
Georgetown has given me so much: a stellar education, a great group of friends, a job that matches my passions and a sense of purpose and belonging. Without a doubt, I’ve found student groups to be the best place to push yourself to define who you are and who you want to be, and I’ve leveraged my experience into great internships in nonprofits, consulting work and finance. Through student groups, I hope I’ve left the place better than I’ve found it, and I hope you can too.
Theo Montgomery is a senior in the School of Foreign Service.