By Jong Eun Jung
Vanderbilt Business School has over 35 student organizations that represent various interests, cultures, and identities across the diverse student body. With separate membership fees for each club, the costs quickly added up — and many past students ended up prioritizing other clubs over the affinity groups, which cost around $25 to join. That’s why the Affinity Pass was created. The pass lets students pay a one-time membership fee of $60 to become a member of more than a dozen affinity clubs for an entire year.
“For the school as a whole, I think it’s an attempt to recognize that there are alternate solutions to a problem. It shows how some of the clubs decided… to help the other clubs. I think it shows more about our classmates trusting each other and recognizing that it’s for a bigger cause,” said Brittany Hunter (MBA’20), Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion for the Owen Student Government Association.
The Story Behind the Pass
April Hughes (MBA’19), the former VP of Diversity & Inclusion, founded the Affinity Pass last year because she noticed that the affinity student organizations weren’t getting the same kind of membership as other clubs. Clubs at Vanderbilt Business School fall into three main groups: professional (i.e. Owen Finance Club, Owen Marketing Association), activity and leisure (i.e. Owen Culinary Society, Owen Golf Club), and affinity (i.e. Owen Black Students’ Association, Owen’s Women’s Business Association).
Hunter says that both costs and confusion acted as barriers to entry for the affinity clubs. “I think a lot of students come in and they want to join social clubs, and then you don’t have a whole lot of money to join the affinity clubs. But more than that… they’re not even sure that they can join these clubs because they don’t really know what it means to be a part of the affinity club and what role (the clubs) play,” she said.
This limited membership had ripple effects: The student organizations with fewer members had less funds and therefore couldn’t host the same kind of programming as the organizations with a larger membership. The Affinity Pass allows all the organizations to share the funds from the membership fees and host events equally. “It supported a lot of programming (some clubs) wouldn’t have been able to have done otherwise,” Hunter said.
Benefits of the Pass
The Affinity Pass encourages collaboration among the organizations. Since membership implies that the student is part of all affinity organizations, the organizations are catering to the same group of people instead of competing for members. “(Clubs can) be more collaborative and a little bit more resourceful with their funds and think about how they can plan out the programming so the following year (students) will want to pay the $60 again,” Hunter said.
In addition, the pass opens the door for students to understand various cultures and identities through student programming. This experience is important in the increasingly global business world, because it helps students realize how diverse people are outside of their own culture and identity. “You don’t really think about Asians, Hispanics, blacks (and) the changes their cultures are going through. And so I think (the pass) is making us better leaders to think about how we perceive diversity and inclusion in a diverse population,” Hunter said.