Getting lost in Indy and a roadmap for new college chapters

It has been a full week here in Indianapolis, and I have already gotten lost a handful of times in the city. Instead of viewing it as an adventure, I start to sweat and irrationally think that I’m never going to make it home. Might as well call my folks, say some dramatic last words and then park my car somewhere in the void. Maybe it would be best that from here on out, if I’m going to explore a new town, I better pack a few boxes of Cheez-Its, a First Aid kit and flare gun.

Now that I’m at SPJ Headquarters, I have to admit that one of the things I’ve wanted to do after college is help students set up campus chapters, a process that may seem like an intimidating, winding road. However, Headquarters staff members are like the GPS of the organization: they can lead you down the right path (sometimes with an overdone British accent).

Right now, there are 129 campus chapters in SPJ, but there’s always room for more. A friend of mine over at the University of North Florida is in the process of beginning a chapter, and she is currently looking for an adviser. She’s got spunk and initiative, which is something that SPJ needs to continue thriving.

Don’t have an SPJ chapter on your campus? Start one. You have Headquarters backing you 100 percent (the people over here don’t bite), and the start-up process is going to quadruple your leadership skills. If you join this national organization as someone who had the drive to start up their college chapter, can you imagine how many professional contacts you’re going to make while in school? Don’t pass up that opportunity.

Here’s how to start:

1)      Let SPJ Headquarters know you’ve made the decision to start a chapter by calling 317-927-8000. You can start a chapter if you’re at a two-year or four-year university or college that has a school or department of journalism or that offers courses in journalism. At least 10 students need to back you up.

2)      Seek out professional SPJ members near you, whether they’re faculty or in a local Pro SPJ chapter. They’ll help you out and offer guidance.

3)      You have to send in some paperwork to Headquarters in order to become a provisional campus chapter, which means you have a year to work toward becoming a “formally recognized” SPJ chapter.

To look at the details on how to start up a campus chapter, visit the SPJ site. It includes paperwork information, programming ideas and tips on how to set up the chapter framework. If you have any questions about anything, call us at Headquarters at 317-927-8000.

Or e-mail me for campus chapter tips at I was an officer in the University of Florida chapter for four years, which included being president for two. I helped lead an almost dormant chapter to becoming the 2009 Outstanding Campus Chapter of the Year. Revving up a chapter is a lot of work, but we certainly had fun with all our programming.

I assure you, we’re not going to let you get lost in the process. So set aside that emergency box of Cheez-Its and flare gun, and start up your chapter this summer.

Coming soon: When to throw out a stale chapter and bake a new one

April Dudash is the summer 2010 Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and does the bidding of SPJ Headquarters. She graduated from the University of Florida in May and has been an SPJ member since 2006.

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